Trigger Warning: Please be aware that the following content contains references to abuse (physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual), pedophilia, and rape cases.
Author Note: If you are not familiar with the film Spotlight I highly recommend either reading the general information about it on IMDB, and/or watching the trailer/movie before reading this article. I say this so you can understand the details I will be discussing below. Thank you!
Saturday nights are usually designated date nights for my husband and me. Since we are young, newlyweds we usually stay out and go to a nice dinner and a movie— that night was no different than any other (so I thought). As we were standing outside the ticket booth on that chilly November night, my husband turned to me and asked if I wanted to watch, “..that movie about the Catholic priests.” I said "yes" immediately, because I was interested to see what Spotlight was actually depicting. The only thing I could remember about the trailer was that it was something preluding to a team of journalists in the 1980s investigating certain Catholic priests who had supposedly raped a large number of children in the Boston area.
When we took our seats inside, I started thinking to myself that this movie will probably end in one of two ways: 1. It will have a happy ending that uplifts my beautiful faith 2. It will be a film that I despise forever for condemning my faith. My narrow, naive mind was not prepared for what I was about to watch.
After the movie, my husband and I sat in our seats breathless. I’m not referring to the feeling I get when I see a donut shop— oh no, this was the opposite. I was frozen in my seat, perplexed by the film I had watched. My husband turned to me and said, “Wow that was an awesome movie, right? I can’t believe those Catholic priests actually did that.”
I looked at my husband in disbelief and almost laughed at how much I disagreed with him. His first thoughts were praise for this film’s story, whereas mine were outrage. I felt as though Spotlight was an attack on the Catholic Church as a whole.
As we walked back to the car, I kept replaying the scenes in my head: priests being accused of raping children, the Boston diocese hiding these crimes, and the journalists confessing that they lost faith in the Catholic Church. After so many years of hearing the stereotypes of all priests being pedophiles, I kept feeling as though Spotlight was a movie made to solely turn people away from the Church.
On the way home I silently told myself that I would never watch that movie again, nor recommend it….
How could I recommend something that shamed my faith?
How could these people try to tell me that my Church was all-powerful and evil?
Why did I even watch this?
It has been eight months since I’ve watched Spotlight. Ever since that night, I have kept the vow to never think about that film again, until one of my Catholic friends asked me if I had seen it. I told her that I had and that I did not like it. She replied quickly stating, “Rapes happen… most priests are good.”
After talking with my friend I realized that what I was feeling all along was wrong. She was wrong— these were children who were raped by men who should have been helping them, not hurting them. I was wrong— I shouldn’t be concerned about the reputation of my Church, but of the real tragedy at hand.
I re-examined my feelings. Why did I feel this way after watching a film about children being sexually abused? Why did I feel outraged that they made this movie, instead of being outraged that those priests let it happen? I slowly realized that I allowed the movie to shake my faith, and that scared me. So, in return I condemned it. In reality, this movie was presenting the real life experiences, and struggles that the journalists went through, as well as some (of the many) victims involved.
After my revelation, I asked about 20 other Catholic friends about Spotlight, and each of them had one of two answers: 1. They hated it 2. They refused to watch it. The fact that so many of my friends condemned the movie at first made me wonder exactly how many Catholics out there were feeling this way as well? Which is precisely why I am writing this article.
This was not a story about one or two priests in Boston who had committed these heinous crimes. There were at least 271 members of clergy accused of child sex abuse, according to The Boston Globe.
271 priests who decided that it was okay to steal the innocence of a child.
271 priests who got away with this evil for years.
Countless children who had their dignity stripped from them, traumatized, abused, abandoned.
In the beginning, I believed that Spotlight was a film that was targeted at making the Catholic Church look like an evil cult, or meant to shake the faiths of the faithful Catholics. These assumptions are false. Spotlight is a film that is brutally honest. Pedophilia is one of the largest Church scandals, and no one wants to think about the fact that these rapes did happen. No one wants to recognize that 271 priests, who were supposed to be role models, had a very dark secret. This story desperately needed to be told.
This film was not created to shake your faith, or criticize the Catholic Church. In fact, after watching Spotlight, your faith should become even stronger. Why? These priests who did these disgusting crimes are sinners— they’re human. These priests are not the Church herself, and they do not and will not break the Church. Matthew 16:18 states:
“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hell will not overpower it.”
The Bible tells us that nothing, not even the gates of Hell, will break down the Church. So please believe me when I say to you, my fellow Catholics, that Spotlight is a movie that you need to watch and re-watch so you can recognize the injustices, pray for the victims and their families, and remain strong in your faith, knowing that the Catholic Church can never be broken by man.
In closing, Spotlight may make you feel uncomfortable, and it should. These injustices should never be silenced, which is why I applaud the real journalists who investigated and worked tirelessly to ensure that the world knows what happened to these children. Every Catholic needs to watch this movie, to know what happened, and to pray for justice and peace.
Catholic praise for Spotlight :
Vatican newspaper dubs the film “honest” and “compelling.” Click on link for more details.
References and Information on Spotlight :
(Link to movie info) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1895587/
(Link to movie trailer) http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1972155161
(Link to list of 271 priests) https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/11/06/least-clergy-have-been-accused-child-sex-abuse-boston-archdiocese/5cKpjVOPhEh7IYnCwRqIJI/story.html
(Link that contains pictures of actors and real journalists of Spotlight) https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jan/13/spotlight-reporters-uncovered-catholic-child-abuse-boston-globe