The movie, “Spotlight,” a film about the Roman Catholic Church’s concealment of predatory priests, won the top prize in its industry—the Oscar for best picture.
It’s a big deal.
When the film was initially released, the Church’s leadership talked about the good things that have happened in the protection of children since the clergy sexual abuse scandal broke. That’s all true. There’s greater awareness and vigilance today.
But since the film has gone from a new and mostly unknown release to an acclaimed, Oscar-winning movie, there’s been limited chatter about it from the hierarchy. For example, the local, archdiocesan newspaper has not acknowledged the award.
That bothers me.
The film’s content is likely smothering the conversation. “Spotlight” is a movie about the hierarchy’s failure to protect children. If the Oscar for best picture had gone to a movie such as, “The Life and Ministry of Saint John Paul II,” I have a feeling it would have been the leading headline.
That should cause reflection. Being selective about the sharing of information isn’t very transparent.
After tens of thousands of innocents were traumatized and billions of dollars paid in abuse settlement claims, the Church’s leadership still seems to sometimes prefer the strategy of silence and omission.
When it doesn’t encourage open conversations about the topics the award-winning movie brings up—clericalism, mandatory celibacy, secrecy, and lack of consequences for those who knowingly reassigned pedophile priests—it makes it harder for the faithful to enter the discussion. It creates a tension between those who are unwaveringly obedient to authority and those who sometimes respectfully question that authority, because they want to help make the Church a better place.
The Roman Catholic Church has done so much good in the world. And it will continue to do so.
But it’s not perfect. We can proclaim its goodness, but must also not ignore or forget hard and painful truths. Ambivalence can cause great harm. One of the more insightful comments in “Spotlight,” comes from the prosecuting attorney when he says, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”
We’re in the season of Lent, a special time of prayer, good works, sacrifice and penance. Even though the Church’s leadership has asked for forgiveness in the past for this dark moment in its history, Lent would have been a great time for it to more publicly acknowledge the Oscar-winning film and to show its sorrow and remorse one more time.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, his disciples enthusiastically greeted him saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Some of the Pharisees wanted Jesus to rebuke his disciples for calling him a king, but he replied, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”
Ultimately, goodness cannot be stopped and will prevail.
But it doesn’t happen by itself.