4 February 2016

Spotlight

Set in Boston USA fifteen years ago, this film focuses upon the work of an investigative team  at "The Boston Globe". They had the onerous and complex task of shining their spotlight upon The Roman Catholic church - not just the eighty seven priests the team had identified as serial child abusers but also upon the church as an organisation  - an organisation that cynically and repeatedly tried to bury the truth about sexual abuse of children by priests in the Boston archdiocese.

It's not an easy film to follow. It's fast-moving and the way the investigation develops is not always clearly spelt out. You really have to concentrate just as the team of dedicated reporters had to concentrate upon the difficult task at hand. There's no love interest or sensational depictions of past abuse. Instead, the screenplay is measured, educative and serious - befitting the subject matter.

If I was going to single out a particular performance for praise, it would have to be Mark Ruffalo's portrayal of Michael Rezendes. In pursuing the truth, he was like a dog with a bone but that pursuit was coloured with compassion, anger, frustration and occasional disbelief. These were the same feelings that touched the rest of the Spotlight team.
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So that was the film but what about the subject matter?

It is mind-boggling that so many men of the cloth used their positions to prey upon vulnerable boys and girls. They used a range of cunning psychological devices to keep those children quiet and even to instil in them feelings of guilt about the sordid activities they had been drawn into. Of course, this didn't just happen in Boston.

There were abusive Catholic priests all over the world and even today we have no guarantee that similar abuse isn't happening. Ministering to communities should surely be all about kindness and other decent Christian  values. The priests who manipulated children to achieve sexual relief ruined so many lives. They also brought shame and suspicion upon righteous priests  who were always in the majority.

It is chilling to recognise that the litany of child abuse was well-known to the Catholic hierarchy. It was in files and correspondence but rather than confront the horror they chose to sweep it under the carpet. Guilty priests were moved on to new parishes or sent to other countries where their vile. abuse simply continued.

How must it be to reach adulthood with dark memories of being sexually abused? Thankfully I have no idea because it never happened to me but I can imagine that it is a terrible burden to bear and guess that there are no magic wands or psychotherapy sessions that could ever make the nightmare go away. My heart goes out to all the victims - thousands of them over countless years.

29 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to seeing this movie. All the reviews I've read and seen about it have been excellent. I both a fan of Ruffalo and Michael Keaton. I've always liked Keaton and was glad that he received an Oscar for his performance in "Birdman". I really liked "Birdman"; and I'm sure I'll like "Spotlight", too.

    It's a monstrous carpet the Catholic Church uses!!!

    (By the way, Yorkie...in case you don't read my response to your response in my blog...thank you so much for the jars...they've already arrived)! :)

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    1. Wow! The jars arrived before I even filled the container! I might be going mad.
      The Catholic carpet spread all the way to Australia.

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    2. It certainly did, Yorkie...that broad carpet reached here; sadly and disturbingly. And it's not yet thread-bare.

      http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/

      So-called Australian "Cardinal" George Pell who is hiding over in the Vatican at present under the pretense of being Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy; he's been there since 2014. He was supposed to return last year to face the Commission, but the poor dear cited illness making it impossible for him to make the trip...my heart bleeds! He should be held to account! He may not have personally been an abuser...but he certainly knew what was going on!

      The whole mob of them sicken me.

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  2. That will be one of the heavier films a person could watch.

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    1. Yes - heavy Comrade Red. This is not a film to watch if you want a bunch of laughs.

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  3. I agree with most of what you say in your summing up but most priests are guilty. Not that I think the majority were abusing children but the rest must have known what was going on and kept quiet. Appalling people one and all.

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    1. They're all a mob of hypocrites, Adrian.

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    2. In the film there is reference to decent priests who complained about their abusive colleagues, expressing grave concerns but these internal concerns were also brushed under the carpet.

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  4. I like it that there is no love interest and no depiction of past (or present) abuse in the film, but that it really focuses on the investigation.

    Sadly, a certain type of men (and a few women) will always abuse their position of authority over children, be it in their own families, in church (where the element of hierarchy can be even stronger), sports clubs, boarding schools and the like. When someone like that can abuse their power to satisfy their sick desire, they will do so.
    For the past two decades or so, public awareness has done much to make it harder for such people, and easier for the victims to speak up - and, hopefully, less probable for the majority of children to be subject to abuse in the first place.

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    1. Do you think that there might be child abusers in mosques? In England, the spotlight has not shone upon such men. I wonder why.

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    2. Yes, I think there are child abusers in every religion. When man (or woman) is of that disposition, he will abuse his position towards that goal.

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    3. YP I remember reading somewhere that US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were warned not to overreact when they discovered that adult men in the upper echelons of those countries kept children around for their personal use. Just another reason, in my estimation, not to let your life be screwed up by ANY religion.

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    4. So true, Jan.

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  5. We enjoyed that film too. I was astounded how even within the press some tried to shelve it. The abuse has not been confined to the Catholic Church either. The abuse is evil but the cover up is just as bad.

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    1. You are right Diane and that was why the editor of "The Boston Globe" delayed revelations. He wanted to get to the core of it all.

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  6. It seems to be the same throughout the world. Those of us who are "normal" can't begin to understand it. But anyone who says you just have to forget about it obviously has no understanding of the problem at all.

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    1. You couldn't forget about something like that could you Mrs Weaver? It would become part of your personality, affecting many aspects of your life - such as the ability to form wholesome relationships.

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  7. I read a review of Spotlight on Roger's blog a couple of weeks ago and it is on my list of films to see. One of the issues for me is the ability of journalists to investigate this sort of scandal with the decline of the newspaper.

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    1. That point is hinted at in the film. I am sure that like other big newspapers, "The Boston Globe" now employs less journalists than it did in 2001/2002.

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  8. I've wanted to see this movie because I worked in the newspaper industry -- for the same company that owned the Boston Globe at the time -- and I'd love to see how the investigation is portrayed. (And yes, as you said above, the Globe has suffered mightily at the hands of the economy just like other papers.)

    It is hard to comprehend how someone in a position of such trust would abuse that trust to such an extent. Sometimes I wonder if being priests, open to and aware of the concept of evil, actually makes them more likely to participate in that evil -- and think of it as an earthly or even satanic temptation that must be repented. Whereas most of us couldn't even conceive of such atrocities.

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    1. It was interesting that when one former priest was confronted in the film he said quite matter-of-factly that he himself had been raped by a priest when he was a boy - as if this was par for the course. How and why do certain men become abusers? They are not born that way.

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  9. Look forward to seeing the film. It will be an exercise in nostalgia. 15 years ago I worked on a magazine that had 'investigative reporters'. I'm now back with the same media company and there are no longer any such reporters and no capacity to do this kind of Boston Globe journalism. It's all about generating clicks and sharing of stories. It's a sad time for democracy and accountability when the only place you can see this kind of journalism is in films.

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    1. Michael - thanks for dropping by once more. Until you and Shooting Parrots raised the matter, I must say I hadn't really thought too much about the power of investigative journalism to support democracy and root out rottenness in our societies. Cutbacks and wholesale reliance on the internet clearly impact on the ability of free-thinking journalists to expose the truth.

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  10. It looks a worthy movie...not amazing but worthy

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    1. Worthy...yes that's the right word for it.

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  11. Not for me , it would just give me nightmares. my childhood was ruined by experts but my adulthood apart from the odd wobble has been fine

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    1. Thanks for calling by Kate. Your reference to a childhood "ruined by experts" was intriguing. I just went to your blog to see if I could find out what you meant but if the story is there I couldn't find it. Mind you I see you hasve been blogging for at least three years. Could you give me a link?

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  12. Men living a so-called celibate life in the name of religion, is unnatural, and the extent of the abuse of trust, also under the cloak of religion, is horrifying.
    What else will crawl out of the woodwork?

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    1. What else? Perhaps one day we will learn about abusive imams who hold positions of trust that parallel Catholic priests.

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