Sunday, March 20, 2016

Film 'Spotlight' and the Church

A professor at the Catholic University of Taegu, writes in an opinion column of the  Catholic Times about the American film Spotlight. The film was acclaimed as one of the best pictures of 2015 and received many awards. Portrayal of the investigation by the spotlight team of the Boston Globe on widespread child sex abuse in the Boston area by Catholic priests was the story. At the presentation of the awards the director said: "This Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican."

The investigation began with the new managing editor of the paper in 2001. Mass media needs to help the readers with information that will instruct, was his conviction. Independence of the paper has to be maintained in the face of power and personal connections, and this became the background for their efforts.

Two things are suggested by the film: the role of religion and the press. Boston is an area with many white Catholics. The spotlight team was uncovering attempts to hide the truth with habits from the past and policies among a readership that was largely Catholic. Of course the Church, lawyers, doctors, competitive newspapers, Boston Catholics, friends of the victims were part of the systematic disregard and coldness concerning the issue and consequently the number of victims and suspects continued to increase. All were in some way responsible.

Even the Boston Globe paid no attention to what it knew, and helped to ignore the issue. It was not a scandal only of the priests but of the of policies of the church that systematically ignored the pathological situation. It was an issue that the Vatican needed to be acquainted with. 

Hope was that the church with this sincere effort of advice would recover its rightful place in society. A choice had to be made on what the press needs to do and what it is doing.This incident shows what was necessary. 'Reporting of garbage' should give way to the reporting of truth was a message of the film.

Another issue was the church's role and the way the hierarchical system works. The system is to help Christians live a Christ-like life, and grow spiritually. When some of the clergy are behaving otherwise the movie shows what needed to be done. Church is there to help the Christians and not to cover over the faults of the clergy. If we are afraid of light on our faults we need to become more transparent.

The writer was happy to see the response from the Vatican; it was  a consolation. The movie is not Anti-Catholic. A Vatican Radio commentator  said the  film helped the Church in the United States “to accept fully the sin, to admit it publicly, and to pay all the consequences.”

In conclusion, she says, we Catholics should not be afraid of criticism but need to look carefully at our wounds.