I just saw the film, “Spotlight” on Netflix. I had avoided it in the theater because I was afraid I’d lose it, emotionally. It’s a good thing, because I did. I wailed long, hard, and loud at the end of the film when the Boston Globe Spotlight team began to field dozens of phone calls from victims of clergy sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Boston. And I’m still on the verge of tears as I write this.
I recall vividly that December of 2002 when the story broke. I couldn’t believe how stupid and corrupt the church had been. And I was frustrated in the following months as more and more priests were accused and all I got was “crickets” from the Archdiocese, typical reactions of men whose emotions had always seemed shut down, even in the best of times.
As a pastor of a parish I needed to know more details of what was happening. Instead all we got was what we read in the newspaper. This lack of communication highlighted a deep morale problem which eventually led me out of the priesthood. It was a condescending and patronizing attitude of those in authority versus the rest of the clergy and people, even as priests were being viewed as part of the problem by many, who thought we knew about the extent of the abuse all along and kept it a secret. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The film gave the impression that Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston, resigned due to the Globe’s reporting. In reality, it was also due to the brave act of a group of priests of Boston who signed a letter calling for his resignation. I applaud their courage. It was the tipping point that brought Cardinal Law to leave.
The next administrations rarely saw fit proactively to communicate with its priests; we were simply left in the dark. Decisions were made from on high without notice. We were continually blindsided as we read new reports of church closings, selling of property, lawsuits, etc….for what reason? I suppose some lawyer decided that ignorance of the clergy was bliss, and confidentiality was paramount.
I still grieve for the victims of child abuse, especially at the hands of clergy. While the church has done much to clean up its act, it still has not reached out sufficiently to priests who have been traumatized by this event in 2002 and in later years.
Victims of sexual abuse need to come forward no matter how old they are, no matter who abused them. Start with the police and get a good lawyer, and don’t worry about any statute of limitations. Adults who prey after kids need to be sequestered, far, far away from civilization.
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