Spotlight, a new film with a superb ensemble cast, takes us back to 2001 when Boston Globe journalists spent months looking into the true story of pedophilia within the Catholic Church.
Before even walking into the theatre, most people know how the story ends. What people don’t know is the story behind the headlines and the by-lines.
So, let’s go back to the beginning; Spotlight is a four-person investigative team who had earlier shelved or mistakenly overlooked reports of sexual abuse by trusted priests in the Boston diocese.
An Outsider Walks Into the Newsroom
A new editor arrives with an outsider’s perspective of how essential this story may be and how widespread the corruption may extend. In addition to wanting the actions of individual priests examined, the editor is concerned that lawyers and church leaders covered up their crimes. On his first day on the job, he assigns the Spotlight team to investigate this possibility.
The “outsider” also insists that the story not be rushed. When the journalists are ready with individual stories of molestation, the editor insists that the real story is bigger than this: the church system itself is corrupt.
The Journalists Pursue the Story
Although the team is up against the church’s power and money, the journalists begin to find support from numerous sources—former rape survivors, the victims’ class-action attorney, a treatment psychologist, and even a guilty priest who admits: “I did fool around with boys, but I never got any pleasure from it.”
Several journalists are Catholics themselves who put their own experiences and beliefs aside to uncover the truth and expose the evil. The extent of abuse and silence? As the class-action attorney avows: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”
By the end of the movie, sealed documents become open, stories are confirmed, and The Boston Archdiocese is exposed: the corrupt system had secretly settled claims against at least 70 priests, many of whom were shuffled off to other parishes.
The Globe Continues the Storyline and Wins a Pulitzer
The Globe published 600 stories of sexual abuse by priests in 2002 and later won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Certainly, the four Spotlight reporters became heroes, much as Woodward and Bernstein did in All the President’s Men. Similar to the breakdown of political trust, Spotlight points to the breakdown of religious trust. In this latter case, however, it is victimized children who become the real heroes in this scandal.