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Spotlight on crime against children

There is a time when the truth has to be revealed, when the secrecy of crimes can no longer be contained or denied, and when the guilty must be held to account. History shows that secrecy and cover up keeps that day of reckoning at bay, but one day the truth will come out.

That is the story of Spotlight, a film about the Spotlight team of investigative reporters at the Boston Globe newspaper that exposed sex crimes against children by priests and the Church cover up of the crimes.

It is an award winning film that will shine this year for the pure strength of its powerful and honest story-telling of a most painful subject in the Catholic Church.

It won the prestigious and coveted Catholic SIGNIS Jury Prize of the Venice Film Festival. Vatican Radio said that in this film the reporters “made themselves examples of their most pure vocation, that of finding the facts, verifying sources and making themselves—for the good of the community and of a city—paladins of the need for justice.”

The film reveals that when the secret cover up of crimes against children by the powerful leaders of the institutional Church in Boston, where as many as 90 priests involved, the powerful citizens and archbishop tried to stop the investigating journalists from pursuing the truth. They failed.

The subsequent revelations shocked the world, because of the extent of the cover up and the stories opened the flood gates of protests and complaints against clergy. The number of offending priests eventually reached a total of 159.

Similar revelations came to light in the early 1990s in Canada, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany. It has not yet broken in The Philippines, as cover up is the practice and private cash settlements are common in secular society and Church circles.

The Globe had its own guilt, admitted to in the film. Years previously, writers and editors had been informed many times of the child sexual abuse by priests and had buried the stories.

The investigative team continued, despite harassment and threats. Only one lawyer had the courage to take up the cases of the victims, Mitchell Garabedian, played by Stanley Tucci.

Sean Cardinal O’Malley said, “The Spotlight film depicts a very painful time in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States and particularly here in the archdiocese of Boston.

“The media’s investigative report
ing on the abuse crisis instigated a call for the Church to take responsibility for its failings and to reform itself—to deal with what was shameful and hidden—and to make the commitment to put the protection of children first, ahead of all other interests.

“We have asked for and continue to ask for forgiveness from all those harmed by the crimes of the abuse of minors.”

The love of power and prestige by some Church leaders of the institutional Church led to the spread of this obnoxious and toxic sex crime against children by those sworn and entrusted to protect and help them. The offenders ignored the words of Jesus of Nazareth.

When asked by the Jewish leaders and elders of his day who were the most important, Jesus shocked them by placing a child in front of them. A child had no rights or standing in society at the time.

He told them bluntly that unless they became as innocent as the child, they could not enter God’s kingdom and whoever accepts a child accepts me. 

And he added that whoever abuses a child should have a millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deepest ocean. He made enemies that day.

Jesus equates himself with the innocent child, so abusing a child is abusing him.

We need to have a dedication and commitment to protecting and healing child abuse victims, reporting abuse and taking a stand for justice for them. They need champions and guardians, and adults must be there for them.

It ought to make us cringe with shame to think of such terrible child abuse and to be as angry as Jesus was when he saw his disciples pushing the children away from him. They did not accept his words either.

What we Christians need is a righteous, godly anger at the criminal betrayal of all that is pure and beautiful in the world—childhood. Our faith is primarily rooted in the words and practice of Jesus Christ and imbedded in our conscience to decide what is right and what stand to take.

It can only be one thing—justice for the child victims.



         • Father Shay Cullen