This is a movie about journalism at its very best. In 2000 The Boston Globe was at its height. People read the paper. Journalism mattered. The movie reminds us of what we are missing as we stop reading newspapers. For the best discussion of the film as a tour de force of investigative journalism check out the Charlie Rose discussion http://www.charlierose.com/watch/60642707
This is an unsettling movie for you if you are a Christian. In fact it disturbs any loyalty that you might have toward an institution of any kind. This brilliant Tom McCarthy movie blasts away our innocence.
This is the story of the painstakingly careful investigative journalism that led to the exposure of Roman Catholic priests in Boston who were abusing and had abused children. The Boston Globe has a long-standing department called Spotlight. At the outset of the story three investigative journalists are working under the leadership of Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton). The newspaper gets a new editor from the Miami Herald, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). He encourages the research of the Spotlight team into the alleged sex abuse by Catholic clergy. Marty is not from Boston, is not a baseball fan, and is Jewish. He has no investment in covering up for the priests or the church. He pushes the team over and over to find the bigger story.
The investigation begins in 2001 with one priest suspected of child abuse, and ends in 2002 with the paper printing the truth on there being 70 plus priests and many many victims. The exposure happened. And city after city and country after country broke open the extent of this scandal.
I liked it that the work of the journalists was not glamorous but tedious, and at times heart-breaking when leads led to nothing. Also one lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), sacrificed many years to track this story. His work left him no time for the simple pleasures of life and he never married. Was he the truer priest?
I particularly liked Walter Robinson’s slow realization that he had been a collaborator in keeping the lid on the story back in 1985, when the first brave victims tried to tell their story. He is a Bostonian born and bred, a Catholic and a baseball fan. Upsetting the goodness of Boston and the church was too high a price to risk. This is a code that is very very difficult to challenge.
Jesus’ courage in standing with the crowd as the men were about to stone a woman who had been accused of adultery came to mind. His challenge – “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” – changed the order of things.
The movie raised the question about how we are all complicit in scandals. Can you think of times when you saw a truth but did not want to reveal it because the cost was too great? Was it easier to turn a blind eye? We look for reasons, no matter how far fetched, to ignore truth. As one abusive priest Ronald Paquin (Richard O’Rourke) put it, “sure I fooled around but I never gratified myself.”
Almost anything will do to protect you from truth telling. Mostly the victims are blamed. Boston was a Catholic town and thus was “good”. The victims were poor and marginalized, like many of the murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. One of the Spotlight team, Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), a burly, direct sort of guy, is shocked as the truth unfolds. First they find one and then six. Then 89 priests?! He makes a heartfelt confession that, as a lapsed Catholic, he had thought that one day he might return to the church.
The grandmother of team-member Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdam) is a devout Catholic who must read the truth as revealed by her own granddaughter in the Boston Globe.
The third team member, Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) discovers a so-called treatment house for overworked, tired (read “deviant”) priests in his own neighbourhood. He becomes obsessed by his fear of the place, on alert for his children. His once safe neighbourhood is safe no longer, and he is out patrolling the streets in the night.
Exposing the truth changes one’s life.
In a scene near the end of film we are shown a great Boston cathedral on Christmas Eve where the children are singing Silent Night. The cathedral is awash in colour and lights, pulling one into the magic and mystery of the holiest of nights. Standing at the door peering in is Mike Rezendes, stripped of any naiveté. What is he thinking? It seems obvious that he is wondering, “are these children singing carols safe?” Watching, we feel that question rise in us.
I thought he might also be realizing the power of that scene. Christians, even lapsed Christians, want this undisturbed. There are those who will cover up the most egregious abuse to protect that moment of compelling mystery. Mike might be realizing how much he has lost. Truth, if revealed, can do that to a person.
I am left thinking about how loyalty can be very blind.
If after seeing this movie, you wonder about whether you have any loyalty left in you for the Christian church, maybe this idea will help.
The Boston Globe is guilty of a 15-year cover up of the truth. An outsider helped them uncover and right this blindness. Today the Spotlight team is stronger than ever, doing its job of truth speaking even with print journalism under siege.
Could the church go and do likewise? Is Pope Francis a voice from the outside within the Vatican and the wider world of church?Read More