One of the standouts among the Best Picture nominees this year was “Spotlight,” which is about the investigative journalism team at the Boston Globe that broke the story about the Church’s sex abuse scandal in 2002.
Most Catholics wouldn’t touch this movie with a ten-foot pole. I have a different opinion: Every Catholic should watch it.
And then you should watch it with your non-Catholic friends.
Why? I’ve got a couple reasons:
“Spotlight” does show one side — but the side it shows is true.
The plot of “Spotlight” is more about the team of journalists and the nature of investigative journalism itself, uncovering a story that needed to be exposed. And the kinds of things they reveal in the film are true. One-sided, but true.
“Spotlight” paints a negative picture of the humans in the Church — though not necessarily of the entire Church, its hierarchy and all of its teaching. It’s rightly negative, because what happened is negative.
The side it doesn’t show is that other institutions — including families, schools, Protestant churches and other organizations, such as Planned Parenthood — are also guilty of abuse, as well as not speaking up. The Catholic Church is actually one of the only institutional bodies working to effectively deal with the problem.
At one point in this film, the editor of the Boston Globe says, “There’s a fair share of blame to go around.”
We’re all guilty here.
Could we as a Church be doing more? Absolutely. Are we, because we are Catholic and claim this church started by Christ himself holds all of the Truth, more culpable for this crime than others? Yeah, I think we are. More is expected of us, and rightly so.
I spoke with Christopher White, associate director of Catholic Voices USA, on the topic, and he said, “In a way, we have to be grateful for the work of the media to expose this and make us deal with this…[to force us to] be true to who we really are as Catholics…we have to be accountable for that.”
“There’s little good to be gained by just putting our heads in the sand. Scripture asks us to always be ready to give an answer,” he added. “It’s our responsibility to see films like this and engage with people and account for them.”
We need to get it together, guys.
In a great movie review by the National Catholic Register, critic Steven Greydanus writes, “For Catholic viewers, clerical and lay, [“Spotlight”] can be seen as a dramatic witness to the profound need to…insist on a culture of openness, transparency and accountability. The Church is called to be the light of the world. We must not fear to turn a spotlight on ourselves.”
He nailed it on the head. We need to stop running away from negative perspectives. This scandal happened. It was horrible and caused horrific hurt to so many people who experienced the abuse. It was covered up by some in the Church. And that is wrong.
But the fact of the matter is, the Church is a hospital made up of broken people. We are not a gated community or club of the bourgeois. We are a heartbroken, empty-handed, sinful people who are in need of mercy — clerics, religious and lay alike.
This is a reality many of us in the Church (really, everybody) still need to accept. Too many of us hold our noses up to the world, wear our masks of “I’m fine, really, I have everything together,” and reduce people to the sins we see in them.
Too often, we just hear all the negative things others say: We don’t see the broken, bleeding person saying it.
To be the arms of this broken Body of Christ that welcomes people back, we need to be the bridge that meets them in their suffering — validating their points of view, experience and emotions before a conversation about this topic can be had. If we start by having a heart of mercy that sees these beautiful souls, we could actually get somewhere. We need to bring them alongside us, recognize that we are all broken, just in different ways — and say to them, “Me too. Let’s go together.”
Part II will focus on what you should say to your friends about Spotlight.