When you’re a poor kid, from a poor family, and a priest pays attention to you, it’s a big deal. How do you say no to God?
It was a shocking story that cried out to be heard. Only for years, no one who wanted to write it would choose to take on the establishment, which in this case was the Archdiocese of Boston. And no one wanted to talk about it – not the victims, not the attorneys, and certainly not the Church.
But the story would not and could not remain in the shadows for ever. The Boston Globe would win a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 in investigative reporting for their work on uncovering (and bringing to light) decades of sexual abuse of children by Boston priests, and the systemic and institutional maneuverings by the Archdiocese which resulted in the Church shielding at least 70 priests.
This film, Spotlight, tells the story of the Spotlight group, a team of three reporters, and their editor at the Boston Globe and how they brought this story public. It was much farther reaching then they thought when they began. As Walter “Robby” Robinson, the Spotlight team editor, played by Michael Keaton, would say –
We’ve got two stories here, the story about a bunch of degenerate priests, and the story about a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry.
Everything was stacked against them.
The readership of the Globe was 53% Catholic, and between the Irish and the Italians, who made up nearly a quarter of Boston’s population, they were in reality, an audience not ready for the story. In fact all of the Spotlight team were either lapsed Catholics, or had left the Church, hoping to return someday.
Reporter Mike Rezendes, played by Mark Ruffalo, had developed a source – a former priest who for the last 30 years had worked in clinical psychiatry studying what made these priests not only break their vows of celibacy, but also go down the even darker road of sexual abusing children.
By his figures, based on 30 years of research, this Sipes told Rezendes that he figured that roughly six percent of all priests fit into that category, those who act out sexually.. Now Boston had approximately 1500 priests – so six percent of that figure would be 90.