Tuesday, November 24, 2015
“Spotlight” the movie that reveals how a team of reporters exposed the child abusers in the Catholic church in 2002, is giving the U.S. -- and soon the World a wake-up call. Survivors of abuse by priests are coming forward in large numbers to talk about that abuse - some for the first time. They are contacting survivor advocacy organizations, hotlines, and the media – because the movie gives them courage and credibility.
It has been 13 years since the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team first revealed that in Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law covered up for Fr. John Geoghan a serial sexual abuser of children and let him keep working. Since then, the scandal spread to more than 100 cities in the U.S. and at least 100 more cities around the world. The Globe wrote 600 stories on priest sexual abuse in 2002. Because the problem did not go away after 250 priests and brothers were accused in Boston, the Globe and other news media continued their quest for pedophile priests and their enablers. Today, more than a decade after American bishops pledged to better protect young people from sexual abuse, the abuse scandal is still not over. Bishops in Kansas City and Minneapolis were recently removed from their posts for continuing to cover up for abusive priests.
Michael Rezendes, one of the original Spotlight reporters who broke the story hasn’t stopped his investigative reporting of church abuse. The Globe has continued to hold the church accountable for its actions regarding clergy sexual abuse.
In 2014, the Globe reported that a prominent American cleric named by Pope Francis to prosecute cases of priestly abuse was himself involved in the coverup of child sexual abuse. Pope Francis named the Jesuit, Fr. Robert Geisinger, formerly the head of the Chicago Jesuits, to be the Vatican’s top prosecutor for serious crimes, including raping and molesting children. The Globe reported that Geisinger had extensive knowledge for years about a serial sexual abuser within the Jesuit order, a Fr. Donald McGuire (who is now in prison), but allowed him to continue in the Jesuit ministry.
The Internet helped spread the Spotlight Team’s stories worldwide, prompting lawsuits, investigations by other news organizations, and complaints from thousands of victims. This exposure is “catching” since survivors in other religions and in non-religious places like schools, organizations for boys and girls –anywhere children are supervised by adults -- are also speaking out.
While the movie is making more people aware of the abuse there is still much work to do if we are to really protect the children. We need to vote so that politicians will stop helping the church and other religious and public organizations to keep statute of limitation laws on the books in so many states. Clergy abuse — which the church once silenced by settling with victims and swearing them to secrecy — has cost the Catholic Church in America $4 billion since 1950 in settlements, therapy for victims, and other cost – so they are motivated to keep survivors from suing them.
Since the movie opened, bishops are all making statements --Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston and a top adviser to Pope Francis on clergy sexual abuse policy, was among the first to speak up. He said the church must continue to seek forgiveness from victims and to make amends. But Terry McKiernan of Bishop Accountability, an organization that tracks the abuse crisis, said the bishops have failed to fully address issues related to the abuse crisis that remain unresolved.
The bishops could have agreed to make lists of abusive priests available nationwide said Terry. Only about 30 of the 178 dioceses have done so, he said. Although the Boston diocese provided a list, advocates complain it is incomplete. More than 2,400 abusive priests nationwide have never been named, Terry said, and it is impossible to know how many are still living.
“In a way, the movie is all about that issue: Who are these men who have done these things, how many are there, what are their names? Where have they worked? What have they done? It’s all about making a list,” he said. “I think it’s such an obvious thing to address for the bishops, especially those who haven’t made a list yet.” The bishops are all getting on the “we’re sorry” bandwagon but don’t talk about the failures where bishops are doing the same coverups as in Kansas City, Mo. and Minneapolis.
If the church really wanted to do something they would do what Terry says, publish the lists of all pedophile priests – and also of the bishops who covered up for them. The pope should take responsibility for his employees and what they do -- if he doesn’t, he is an enabler of child abuse. He should be outraged at what was done and is still being done to children. He makes saints of pedophile enablers and spends his time worrying about climate issues rather than saving the children and helping those already devastated by the abuse.
We thank everyone who made the movie possible and encourage you to see the movie and tell everyone you know about it. It is only when evil hits the “Spotlight” that we can stop it.