I faintly remember the reporting of the Catholic Church scandal in Boston back in 2002, but I definitely have seen the aftershocks in many churches beyond the Catholic faith having to deal with sexual assault scandals and the inability of the churches to protect their parishioners from molestation and assault. Therefore, I was highly interested when the movie Spotlight was released and then won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2015. One of my students had read the book Betrayal for his book/movie project, and I decided to read it, because you know: book-first, movie-second. It was an interesting and harrowing experience.
In 2002, the Boston Globe got a tip about a Catholic priest who had served for many decades in the Boston diocese, despite allegations and rumors of sexual abuse of young boys. They decided to investigate and realized quickly that it was not just one man: an entire system was guilty. They discovered a pattern of a priest becoming embedded in the community, befriending fatherless boys and gaining their trust, molesting them, family accusations, and the priest’s transfer to a different parish or diocese. This pattern, repeated continually, led to the abuse and destruction of many, many families and a crisis within a church.
The Boston Globe team did a remarkable job in collecting data, stories, newspaper clippings, and interviews from the victims, their families, priests, and archbishops. They didn’t shy away from the unpleasantness of the story but reported the details with forthrightness and truthfulness. In so doing, they give a voice to those who have been long silenced by their assailants and the system that fed them to the wolves. I hope that I can continue to listen and to help those who need a safe space to turn—especially in places of worship.