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Priest Scandal Movie: Painful, Disturbing, and Surprisingly Fair


“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” This dialogue sums up the primary lesson of the film Spotlight, currently playing in a major nationwide release. The movie, “based on actual events” and starring Michael Keaton, chronicles a Boston Globe four-person investigative team’s discovery of Cardinal Bernard Law and the Archdiocese of Boston’s cover-up of the priest sexual abuse scandal. The title of the film, taken from the name of the investigative team, of course does double-duty as a reference to a painful journalistic laser beam cast on the priest sexual abuse scandal when the Globe story broke on January 6, 2002.

“It takes a village to abuse a child” refers to the manner in which priest sexual abuse of young boys was mishandled, ignored, and covered up by clergy, lawyers, school principals, teachers, public relations personnel—and even family members of the victims themselves. In other words, as the Globe editor Marty Baron, played by Liev Schreiber, opined, “This isn’t about one bishop; it’s about the system itself.” The Spotlight team is committed to exposing a broken, dysfunctional ecclesiastical system that, instead of de-frocking offending priests or turning them over to law enforcement, often simply reassigned them while settling victims’ cases out of court in confidentiality agreements.

If you are a devout Catholic, as is this film reviewer, and believe that no matter what, the gates of hell shall not prevail against Christ’s Church—sitting though Spotlight may be the longest two hours you’ll ever spend in a theatre. You will not be able to exit the multi-plex reassured that this is a horrible movie, a hastily thrown-together thoughtless Hollywood hatchet job produced by people who obviously loathe the Catholic Church and are just out to get her. Instead this is an intelligent, well-written, acted, and directed movie. Due to the subject matter, Catholic film-goers cannot help but feelSpotlight is rubbing their noses into one of the most demoralizing, pathetic, and despicable episodes in the history of Catholicism.

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