by MICHAEL OTTO
New Zealand’s National Office for Professional Standards director has described as “powerful” a film now showing
in this country about the uncovering of a child sexual abuse scandal in a US archdiocese.
Spotlight depicts the true story of how a team of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe newspaper exposed Boston archdiocese’s cover-up of sexual abuse of minors by more than 70 local priests.
The film Spotlight won Best Picture and original screenplay at this year’s Oscars while director Tom McCarthy has been nominated for Best Director. It opened in New Zealand on January 28.
National Office for Professional Standards director Bill Kilgallon said the film gives “an unflinching but never sensationalised picture of the damage done to those who are abused”.
“It shows the courage required by victims to share their experience.
“The response of those in leadership in the Church which focused on the protection of reputation instead of the
protection of children is laid bare — a response that protected known abusers, sought to silence victims, allowed more children to be harmed and in the end did irreparable damage to the Church,” Mr Kilgallon said.
He noted that the film does not set out to make heroes of the journalists and is honest about the failure of the paper to raise the issue earlier.
“Sadly, today’s press does not have the resources to undertake the painstaking work shown in this film — and that is a great loss to our society.”
The “Spotlight” team of journalists at the Boston Globe earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for their efforts.
Their exposé set off a wave of revelations globally.
In a recent UK Catholic Herald article, Mr McCarthy explained how he sought the counsel of his Catholic parents before making the film.
Mr McCarthy said the film’s approach was not to sensationalise or be gratuitous.
“It’s not just a question of a newspaper going after the Church, but also a larger question of societal complicity and deference, in this case towards the Church, but also in general,” he said in the Catholic Herald article.
The article noted that Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the US Bishops’ Conference, used publicity generated by the film to highlight the work the US Church has done in the last decade to tackle the issue.
Spotlight was reviewed in issue 482 of NZ Catholic by Nevil Gibson.