The Spotlight Film

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Yesterday, I wrote about the movie “Bridge of Spies.” Another film that I saw recently is the movie Spotlight, which follows the efforts of the “Spotlight Team” at the Boston Globe to investigate allegations – allegations that are now well known but which were previously shrouded in secrecy – that there were a substantial number of Catholic priests who were sexually abusing children, and then simply being moved from parish to parish, from location to location. The story has its genesis here in Boston, my home town, so I’m pretty well familiar with it. In fact, shortly after the story erupted in 2002, there were allegations made against the juvenile justice agency here in the Commonwealth, for whom I was working, that some of the “residents” had been abused by Catholic priests working with the agency back in the 1970s, when these residents were still teenagers.

At the time I asked our forensic expert to supply with a memorandum on recovered memory, to try to figure out whether it’s really possible for someone to completely suppress memories of sexual abuse for years and years and years.[1] He reported back to me that recovered memories normally involve memories that were formed when children are pre-verbal, not when children are teenagers. Which is different from not wanting to deal with an issue or wanting to avoid something at all costs, a phenomenon most of us can relate to. But that’s not “recovered” memory.[2]

In any case, even if you know the outcome, the film is a beautiful portrayal of serious journalists at work on a very important story. And it is another reminder of how corrupt the Catholic Church is, even to this day. Even with everyone’s favorite Pope at the helm. I mean, let’s remember that this is the church that brought us the Inquisition, and the Crusades, and the sale of Indulgences (leading to the Protestant Reformation), and the Thirty Years War, and the doctrine of the Trinity, and the simultaneous opposition to birth control and abortion, and massive amounts of sexual repression (something that has had a direct bearing on the sexual abuse scandal). Which is not to say that the Catholic Church has not done some good things. They’ve done some good things.[3] But when you weigh those good things against the massive amount of harm done by the Catholic Church, I’m not so sure that you come out with a net positive. It’s a little hard to know for sure, because if the Catholic Church had not become the monstrosity that it did in the Middle Ages, it’s hard to know how differently civilization would have developed.

Regardless of whether you’re pro-Catholic, anti-Catholic, or agnostic about the church, Spotlight is a film that you ought to see. And did I mention that it takes place here in the city of Boston, in my hometown? I saw the film in Boston – okay, technically in Burlington – just as I saw Bridge of Spies in Berlin. It’s always interesting to be in a place and see a film about it at the same time.

Click here to see the trailer for the Spotlight movie.


[1] This was important for purposes of the “statute of limitations,” which at the time was three years from the age of majority or from when the crime or its consequences was reasonably “discovered.” The statute has since been expanded to 35 years for child sex abuse cases, an expansion that was just upheld as Constitutional by our Supreme Judicial Court.

[2] The recovered memory debate is extremely controversial in psychological circles, as documented by the Psychiatric Times and Harvard Magazine, among others.

[3] Ironically, some Catholic apologists have stretched credulity by trying to claim that the Inquisition and the Crusades were a good thing.

About a1skeptic

A disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
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