The National Catholic Review

Tom McCarthy is the director of “Spotlight,” the Oscar-nominated account of Boston Globe journalists working to uncover the clerical abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. This interview was conducted in November 2015, and has been edited for length and clarity.

Thanks for your willingness to talk to us, Tom. America has already published a review of “Spotlight” along with a couple additional articles, all very favorable toward the film. It is an important work.

As you probably know, I was educated by the Jesuits, so I thank you for that. 

You’re a Boston College alumnus, as am I.

Did you have the good fortune of knowing Father [Bill] Neenan [longtime dean and provost at Boston College]?

The first Jesuit I ever met, in fact.

That's funny, my daughter is two and a half. A lot of times she'll see someone, and if she likes them she'll be like, “Hi friend,” and I always think of Father Neenan because that's how he greeted everybody on campus.

When I was on campus, I was a member of the comedy group “Every Mother's Nightmare”—no, “My Mother's Fleabag”—which was a big comedy group that Amy Poehler was also a member of after I left, and we did a short film, which was basically the dark side of Father Neenan. We showed him shoplifting and running a shopping cart into a car and running away, and he did all these petty crimes across campus. I swear it was one of the biggest hits that we ever did.

He had a great sense of humor and was wonderful. That guy had a huge impact on a lot of people.

So “Spotlight” explores many themes. It is a study in the way power gets abused in a tight-knit tribe; it's an exploration of the clerical abuse scandal in the Catholic Church; and it's also been called “a love letter to investigative journalism.” From your perspective what’s the film centrally about?

Possibly the greater theme of the film, which I think makes it a little more relevant today, is the idea of societal complicity and deference. Specifically, to any type of institutional or individual abuse. Which probably does circle back to journalism, because that's why we have investigative journalists, right? To hold powerful individuals, institutions accountable. When things like this happen in society—when this type of abuse happened in the Boston archdiocese—we all have to ask ourselves, "How did it happen?"

The church in this particular scenario was the bad actor, specifically the Archdiocese of Boston, assisting in the crime, abetting it by covering it up and not doing more to prevent it happening again. I think in all tight-knit communities [when something goes wrong,] we have to ask ourselves "What did I know, what could I have done differently?" Maybe it speaks a little bit to civic responsibility, to the responsibility of citizens. I think that's what makes the theme transcend even this particular story of institutional abuse and maybe speaks to the grander scheme of things.

Look, the response from the Catholic community by and large has been very positive, and I'm still very connected to the Catholic community by family and friends, and I’ve talked to a lot of people about it. Many, especially my age and older, will say, “You know, I felt like I knew a little bit about this, I heard about this particular thing happening but I didn't do anything.” Or, “Maybe I should have known more.” The film raises that discussion, and it's a painful discussion to have, especially because we realize what is at stake, which is our most precious thing, which is the welfare of our children. 

But I think it's a worthwhile discussion to have. The reason I took on this project was because I felt like I knew the community, specifically the Catholic community and all the good work it does. There are a lot of good people involved. We just talked about one of our favorites, Father Neenan. But even within that community this can happen. How does it happen? My feeling is expressed in the film: That the church is an institution run by men and men are fallible. I think for that reason we all have to remain very vigilant, and that's our responsibility. Not just to follow orders or obey commands, but also to participate in the community. That’s what made this movie compelling to me as a storyteller and as a person.

Last night, I re-watched your film with two old friends of mine from Boston College. None of us grew up in Boston, yet all of us had the gut-punch reaction: “Wow, this story hits so close to home.” We knew the places depicted in the film, we knew, personally, some of the people depicted. For you, this story has to hit that much closer to home. You grew up as part of this tribe, Irish Catholic Boston. Could you talk more about that? How does your background color your shaping of this story?

I think how it really shaped it is: It's not a black and white film; it's not about one bad person. In some cases, it's about a lot of good people with the best intentions gone wrong. There is this instinct, which I feel I know pretty well, to protect the institution. And whether that's the Catholic Church, or a high school, or a university, or a newspaper, there's this tendency to circle the wagons. A lot of that comes out of the right places. A strong sense of commitment or responsibility to the people within the community. 

But that shouldn't override our greater sense of what's fair and right. That's a very fine line, and it comes back to the role of journalism. When journalism is at its best, this is what it can illuminate for us. This is what it can help us to see. It's an objective eye. Because when you live in a tight-knit community, sometimes it is hard to stand back, take a look at things and assess them with a fair eye. When you lose that kind of objectivity I think bad things can happen.

I've had some distance from Boston College. I've had some distance from the Catholic community. But I still have some strong ties, a very dear friend of mine was a priest out of Chicago whom I met after I graduated from B.C. I lived in Chicago, and I lived next door to a great basilica on the West Side of Chicago. I befriended a priest who was about my age, and we just hit it off, became good friends, he ended up marrying me. He was a really pivotal person, a real connection to my faith as I grew up in my life. He passed away when he was still terribly young; it was a real loss to everyone he knew. Having a person like that in my life, we talked about the scandal, we talked about how things can go wrong, we talked about the power of bishops, we talked about the politics of the Catholic Church. So I really feel like I had some a not only professional, but also personal insight into that. 

I think my job as a storyteller is to try to present this in as fair a way as possible, as gracefully as possible, acknowledging all sides of the issue. As you well know, it's a really complex and emotional issue. I think possibly what helps is that we see the issue through the eyes of the journalists who are taking on the story, who are active members of the community and who are both excited professionally by the prospects of the story but horrified ultimately by what they uncover. As you said, how close it hits to home.

Your parents were both very devout Catholics. Was it difficult for them to come to terms with you making a film critical of something so precious to them?

It was actually a very good conversation. We started talking about the scandal, and I realized it was maybe the first time they’d had an in-depth discussion about it. They're wonderful parents, they're wonderful people, they're very good Catholics. They care a lot, and I think they live their faith as opposed to just talking about it. And they were very inspirational, in terms of their faith, to their children.

But I realized they hadn't had a deep discussion, and I understood. Who wants to talk about this? It's a very difficult and painful thing to talk about, but sometimes those things are worth talking about. In doing so, we're certain to do our best to prevent it from ever happening again. I think those discussions are very important and I think my parents see that now. Sadly, my father passed away before I finished this film. [It was a] great loss—really one of the best men I've ever met. 

But my mother attended the premiere, and to be honest, it was very hard for her. To some degree I think she was a little overwhelmed at first by the film, and she was torn between being my mother and wanting to be proud for me, and having to digest the film. She said, “Let me go think about this a little bit,” and went away [leaving the premiere without seeing the film]. What happened was, a number of her friends from the Catholic community, a number of friends from her parish, saw the movie. 

And also, her parish priest, Father Jack, in Summit, N.J., drove into New York, because it was a limited release at that point; it was only in New York, Boston and Los Angeles. The film was sold out, so he had to wait through three showings to finally see the movie. But he did. And he had a very positive reaction. He went home and called my mother, and said, “I understand watching is painful, but it's worth seeing it, it's an important movie.” And he, in my mind, he was a great priest. He held my mother's hand throughout because my father wasn't there to do it; it’s exactly what my dad would have done. I think it speaks to all the good priests out there: it has nothing to do with him coming to New York and watching the movie, but everything to do with how he handled my mother. 

My wife and I drove out to my mom’s with my kids last weekend. We went to church, I had a nice chat with Father Jack about it. It was a very important moment for me. I make movies for audiences; I made this movie every bit as much for the Catholic community as I did everybody else. Since that time my mother has gone back now to see the movie with several groups of her friends. They've gone out for lunches and dinners and talked about it, and I have received emails from them all. That means a lot. At the end of the day she's still my mom and I care a lot about her and her friends, and I'm glad that the movie hasn't proved too painful or divisive in that way.

We have this new pope, Francis, who, in many ways, appears quite reform-minded. You’ve said in previous interviews that this problem of clerical abuse “is not going away, you don't get over a problem that has existed for so long in a decade.” Does Pope Francis give you any hope? Are there reasons for optimism around this issue?

I wish my dad was alive to have seen Pope Francis. I'm very excited about him. I think he's a very forward-thinking, inclusive, progressive, reform-minded person, which is really exciting. I think his tour here in America was significant in a lot of ways. That said, he's taking over the reins of an institution that does not change very quickly. Like any leader, within his institution, he's got his work cut out for him. What remains to be seen is how much change, how much action happens under his guidance. I think you just have to wait and see. 

Words are great. But we all know words are just words until we actually see change happening. I meant what I said, I don't think a problem of this weight goes away overnight. And 10 years is overnight with this particular problem because it's existed for a long time, and I think we have to remain forever vigilant that this doesn't happen to one child, ever, anywhere. One is too many, and I think he's committed to that and I think in great part the church is. 

I think people on the other side, especially survivors, need to be heard. And not just their stories because I think they're pretty clear in what their needs are: more action and more transparency, and I don't think anyone would argue with that on face value. It just makes sense, right? But that's difficult for an institution like the Catholic Church. It doesn't operate with transparency, it's just not their way, and for a large part they've operated with impunity. It remains to be seen how it all plays out. I think at heart I'm an optimist, and I'm hoping for the very best.


rakhaa rca | 5/21/2016 - 7:17am

تعتبر العاب تلبيس من اشهر الانواع في هذا المجال وهي بدورها تتضمن عدة اصناف جميلة ويعشقها الكتير وخاصة البنات منها العاب تلبيس ومكياج التي تمزج بين التلبيس وكذلك الميك اب في آن واحد هذا الامر الدي يزيد من جمالها وتجعل كل من يلعبها يستمتع بذلك زد على ذلك العاب تلبيس باربي التي تعرف شعبية كبيرة لانها شخصية مشهورة ويعرفها الصغير والكبير ولهم ذكريات جميلة معها لانها اشتهرت في عالم الكارتون والان اصبح الامر كذلك في مجال الالعاب وغير هذا هناك كذلك نوع آخر مميز ايضا وهو العاب تلبيس عرائس فالجميع يحلم ان يقوم بتلبيسهما لانها تذكرهم بهذه المناسبة الجميلة الا وهي الزواج التي تعتبر اهم مرحلة في حياة الانسان وهناك انواع مغايرة لها جمهور كبير في كل انحاء العالم وهي العاب قص الشعر ليس هي فقط بل توجد ايضا العاب طبخ التي يمكن للجميع لعبها سواء كانوا اولادا او بناتا وهي الاكتر طلبا في النت ويحبها الجميع ومعها ايضا العاب باربي التي تكلمنا عليها بكل انواعها تتنوع العاب فلاش وذلك على حسب كل شخص ورغبته فهناك عدة انواع منها وهناك من هي خاصة بالبنات واخرى للاولاد وتعتبر العاب تلبيس من اكتر الالعاب انتشارا في الويب وهي محبوبة عند الجميع ولديها جمهور واسع كما انها سهلة اللعب والجميع يمكنه لعبها بسهولة تامة بدون صعوبات تذكر كما ان هناك انواع اخرى متل العاب طبخ والعاب اكشن ومكياج و سيارات الى غير ذلك فلك صنف جمهوره ومحبيه ولكن تبقى العاب بنات الاكتر انتشارا وشعبيتنا في عالم العاب الفلاش كما انها تحتوي على شخصيات معروفة وغنية عن التعريف متل باربي و سندريلا وشخصيات اخرى تركت بصمتها في هذا المجال لهذا اصبح يعتمد عليها كتيرا في صنف العاب تلبيس بنات الدي تحبه البنات بكترة خاصة في العالم العربي مما يجعل المواقع الخاصة بهذا النوع تزداد يوما بعد الاخر فذلك ليس عبثا ففي الحقيقة نوع العاب التلبيس من اجمل اصناف العاب فلاش بصفة عامة و العاب بنات بصفة خاصة
اليوم لقد اتيتكم بموقع رائع انا اعجبني شخصيا وهو يحتوي على باقة من العاب بنات جديدة ومتجدد دائما ولمن لا يعرف العاب بنات فهي العاب فلاش تلعب على المتصفح بدون تحميل وتلعب مباشرة والعاب البنات هي بدورها فيها عدة اصناف وهي العاب الماكياج وفي هذا النوع يجب وضع الماكياج للبنت الموجودة في اللعبة وهناك كتير منها ويوجد كذلك العاب طبخ وهذا الصنف عنده محبين اكتر من السابق بفارق كبير وهو المميز عند الجميع سواء كانو بناتا او اولادا وايضا الصغار يلعبون فيه كتيرا وهو الاكتر انتشارا في النت ومواقعه كتيرة ويوجد صنف آخر وهو اقل منه قليلا في الشهرة وهو صنف التلبيس هذا الصنف ايضا يعشقه كتير من البنات وعدد قليل من الاولاد وكل صنف من هذه الاصناف توجد به العاب خاصة بشخصية معينة مشهورة فمتلا باربي ستجدها في جميع هذه الاصناف متلا العاب تلبيس باربي او العاب طبخ باربي او العاب ماكياج باربي وهكذا وهناك شخصيات كتيرة في هذه الالعاب وهي الاكتر شهرة طبعا عن باقي الشخصيات الغير معروفة وهذا الموقع يقدم جميع هذه الاصناف التي تندرج تحت نوع العاب بنات فمرحبا بكم جميعا

Gef Flimlin | 3/5/2016 - 8:05am

I read this article yesterday and watched Spotlight last night. Excellent movie, but obviously not easy to watch. I should also say that I am the product of 8 years of Jesuitical education, but never heard of any abuse by any of those priests in all my time at that Prep School or College. We always had suspicions of priests being gay, but never saw anything beyond that. Fortunately.
I'm actually glad I read the article first because it gave me a perspective of what to look for in terms of how the process and the people failed. However, the one thing that none of the previous commenters seemed to mention was that the psychologist with 30 years experience with clerical pedophilia who gave input into the case, and actually only by phone mentioned, was that many of the priests who were involved had had stunted emotional makeups. They were trapped as 12 year olds. It begged the question of whether the level of sexual abuse is the same in the Greek or Russian Orthodox faiths where the priests are able to emotionally grow and get married. If the Catholic clergy were able to marry, would the level of sexual abuse be reduced significantly?

Rory Connor | 3/5/2016 - 9:41am

"Stunted emotional makeups" may well have been PART of the problem but I am afraid that getting married [to a woman!] was hardly a solution for Father Paul Shanley or his co-offenders. See an article by Father Joseph Wilson (called "The Enemy Within") in The Catholic World Report, 4 July 2002

.... I was in the seminary 1977-1986. The theologate from which I graduated was the Dallas seminary. The vice rector in charge of the collegians there-- under whose influence the college wing of the seminary deteriorated dramatically, discipline eroded, sexually scandalous situations proliferated and good men abandoned their vocations in disgust--left the priesthood a year after I graduated, to "marry" the President of the Dallas Gay Alliance. He thoughtfully invited the seminarians to the festivities. He had been our Moral Theology professor (he studied for his doctorate in moral theology at the local Methodist university), in whose class we used Father Andre Guindon's text, The Sexual Language. This was a fascinating work, in the pages of which I learned, for example, that gay sex is in some ways preferable to straight sex because it is more innovative, expressive, playful.

It is interesting to look back and see how many of the men in that seminary left, either before or after ordination, to embrace an active homosexual lifestyle, often with each other. I actually had the experience, while there, of sitting through a lecture by Father Paul Shanley, the Boston priest who was recently arrested in California. As you know, I would hope, the Boston chancery office had a file of 1,600 pages on Father Shanley, including the diaries in which he described teaching kids how to shoot up drugs, and letters from all over the country protesting the lectures he gave in which he actively promoted pedophilia as helpful and healthy. The lecture he gave was for the Priests of the Dallas diocese and for the 3rd- and 4th-year seminarians--I was sitting directly behind the then-Bishop of Dallas, Thomas Tschoepe, who laughed and joked his way through a truly vile presentation....

Incidentally the issue of a "cover-up" by the Church has been widely misrepresented as well (including by "Spotlight"). There was indeed an enormous file in the Boston chancery on Fr Shanley. What most commentators omit, is that it mainly consisted of denunciations by Catholic traditionalists of Fr Shanley's preaching and lifestyle. However the most the traditionalists could achieve was FINALLY getting him removed from his outreach ministry to gays in 1979. Even that limited action was denounced by gay and liberal activists at the time. But Shanley remained a priest and 20 years later fell victim to the wave of anti-clerical hysteria based on Recovered Memory (itself a follow-up to the Satanic Ritual Abuse lunacy). The funny thing is, had Shanley been defrocked in 1979, he would have been lionized as a victim of Catholic Church bigotry and homophobia. He would never have been targeted by the Recovered Memory hysterics!

I wonder what the former priest Paul Shanley NOW feels about his former "liberal" friends? (And about the traditionalists who wanted him removed almost 50 years ago!)

Bob Hunt | 3/4/2016 - 12:32am

I have worked for more than three decades in youth ministry, in education, and as a pediatric nurse. One of the things I have sadly learned over the years is that those given the responsibility for protecting children are rarely concerned about the children. They are concerned about the adults.

I watched "Spotlight" and thought the movie extraordinarily well made, well written and well acted. Having said that, I will also say that the idea of an industry (the film industry) that is rife with the sexual abuse of children making a film about an institution (the Catholic Church) abusing and covering up the abuse of children stretches the parameters of cynicism. Many have said that the worst part of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church was not the abuse itself, but the cover-up. As a target of child sexual assault (no, not by a priest), I don't think so. But, perhaps that's why we're so forgiving of Hollywood. After all, they don't much try to cover up their epidemic of child sexual assault. Why should they? We know all about it, and we still go to their movies. We still give them Oscars.

Let's be honest, people. What really matters isn't that children are being abused. What really matters is who is doing the abusing. Isn't that how the Church got away with it for so long? We didn't want to hurt Father's reputation, did we? We couldn't put the bishop's appeal at risk? Now, of course, everyone is supposed to be enraged at the Church's history of abuse. Now, it's okay to be angry at the Church, and to express our support for the victims. Phew! I was wondering when it was going to be okay to be pissed at Father's behavior. At last!

At the same time, we just got finished with a week or more of national mourning at the loss of David Bowie, who was fond of 15 year olds. We put Harvey Milk's visage on a postage stamp, though he regularly introduced boys to the wonders of sexual experience. Peter Yarrow was recognized as an outstanding alum of his high school, four decades after raping two teenagers. Frankie Valli and "The Jersey Boys" is a hit on Broadway and in the cinema (they left out the scene where he rapes a 16 year old girl in his dressing room). Oh, I must be one of those lay minimizers, because I mention the fact that nobody gives a damn about kids who are abused by people other than priests (I mean, you know, kids like me).

Spare me all of the decades too late concern for the Church's victims. Spare me the self-righteous, bogus outrage at the bishops. They broke our trust! They scandalized us! Bunk! We knew what was going on. It was our children who were being terrorized. It still goes on, in the Church, in the schools, in the sports teams, in the therapy sessions, in our own homes.

I'm glad Mr. McCarthy made "Spotlight". Maybe it makes him feel good about himself. Do I believe Mr. McCarthy gives a rat's patooty about protecting children? No. Not really. As far as I'm concerned, "Spotlight" may be nothing more than his attempt to divert our attention from the horrors that are epidemic in his own industry, of which he seems to have precious little to say.

So, yes, let's have another month or so of outrage at the Church, pissing on the embers of a scandal created, at least partially, by our own convenient blindness, while we happily ignore the houses that are engulfed with flames around us. Because, when it's all said and done, what really matters is which film wins Best Picture.

Rory Connor | 3/3/2016 - 3:53pm

For several years now I have been talking and writing - in my own admittedly limited circle - about the case of Father Paul Shanley and his conviction based on Recovered Memory evidence. In Ireland most people are skeptical about Recovered Memory - although they don't dismiss the idea completely. However the TYPE of RM evidence that was used to convict Shanley is regarded as absolutely ludicrous in my country. Any attempt to present such evidence in a criminal case would be LITERALLY laughed out of an Irish court. So I can only conclude that
(A) Americans are quite exceptionally naive or
(B) You are unaware of the details of the evidence presented - presumably because Spotlight and the Boston Globe and the rest of the media have neglected to inform you. (Maybe they don't "operate with transparency" - to quote Mr. McCarthy on the subject of the Catholic Church!).

Anyway the following is my second comment from the afore-mentioned Media Report article

"Apart from the 2003 article in Forbes magazine, I recently re-discovered an article by JoAnn Wypijewski dated March 2009 in "The Nation" about the Father Paul Shanley case. This was after his conviction (in 2005) and the following extract refers to the accuser on whose evidence the entire case was based.

The accuser asserted that from the age of 6, in 1983, he had been raped and otherwise indecently assaulted by the defendant for three years in a busy church on Sunday mornings. Each assault, it was alleged, instantly erased his memory of what had just happened, so that the boy re-approached the defendant in a state of innocent unknowing, to be assaulted again, to forget everything again and again, and then move on in life without the slightest inkling of the experience until twenty years later, when it all came back to him.

"Note the similarity between this and the allegations of the original accuser Greg Ford quoted in Forbes. The original guy was dropped from the case because of entirely separate issues which are also referenced in the Forbes article! However the ludicrous "Recovered Memory" evidence was accepted as proof of Paul Shanley's guilt."

Rory Connor | 3/3/2016 - 7:21pm

"I think people on the other side ....need to be heard" says Tom McCarthy. If anyone is interested in the "other side" of this story I suggest you look at the article by JoAnn Wypijewski in CounterPunch magazine - and the related discussion - to which I contributed - on The Media Report blog (by Dave Pierre). Here is my first comment with reference to former Boston priest Fr Paul Shanley who figures in Spotlight

Actually Forbes magazine made simiar points to JoAnn Wypijewski in an article by Daniel Lyons published in 2003 . The following is an extract that focuses on Shanley’s ORIGINAL accuser Greg Ford

….As his parents tell it, in years of therapy Greg had tried, unsuccessfully, to recall being molested by anyone. When his parents showed him the Globe article, he didn’t remember Shanley or recognize his photograph. The Fords persisted, showing Greg a snapshot from his First Communion with Shanley. At last Greg collapsed, sobbing, and said that from age 6 to 11 he had been raped by the priest.

Later he estimated this happened 80 times. He alleged that Shanley took him from his one-hour Sunday school class, raped him, then returned him to his classmates. Verona Mazzei, who was director of the Sunday school program, says she never saw Shanley take any kids from class. The Fords say Greg never exhibited any unusual behavior during these years. “As soon as it happened, each time he left that room, he forgot about it,” Rodney Ford says. “The specialists he sees now are amazed that he could block this out, that he had such control.” … [My emphasis]

The prosecutors dropped this man from the case – for OBVIOUS reasons you would think but you would be wrong! The accuser who actually made it to court (also mentioned in the Forbes article) was a friend of the first accuser who “recovered his memory” at the same time and told the same story of weekly rapes each forgotten after it occurred and then all forgotten for 20 years until suddenly the memories were “recovered”.

So why did the rich man’s magazine Forbes take an interest in this case? Probably because of its likely effect on the American insurance industry i.e. people claiming huge “compensation” on the basis of insurance policies written before “Recovered Memory” was ever heard of. The Forbes article is entitled “Sex, God & Greed” with subheading “Pedophile priests have sparked a litigation gold rush. The Boy Scouts, day care firms and Hollywood may be next.

What a pity that The Boston Globe or the Spotlight movie didn’t go into THAT aspect of the story! .....

Sandi Sinor | 3/3/2016 - 4:25pm

You would probably prefer that Forbes and others not go into the full history of Paul Shanley. As you know, or should know, he did not have only one victim. You are also probably aware of his advocacy for a group called NAMBLA (. orth American Man-Boy Love Association) .The archdiocese was, and yet they still assigned him to parishes where he worked with kids, moving him around after allegations were made.

The Boston Globe did the church as big service. First, it probably headed off many more cases of sexual abuse of the young by priests because it was no longer so easy for bishops to transfer priests accused of sexual molestation. Secondly, because finally there was a "spotlight" on this heinous practice, thanks to a free, secular press.

Finally, it may have forced the church to begin looking at its own sins, its complicty in these crimes against the children. Too many are still in denial, especially in the hierarchy. Francis has dragged his feet on holding bishops accountable, just as his predecessors did. How can this church claim moral authority when it is clear that in acting to protect priests and the institution, its moral judgment was totally absent.

The use of "recovered memory" is questionable, but discounting Shanley's guilt based on one case of this, perhaps drummed up by a lawyer looking for work, is a disservice to all of the other victims. Shanley was sent to California with no headsup by the Boston people looking to export this priest to another part of the country. For that too, the hierarchy of Boston should be held accountable.

For more on this, and the knowledge of Boston hierarchy, read

Rory Connor | 3/3/2016 - 6:42pm

You may be surprised to know that I agree with you - at least in part. When Paul Shanley was convicted in 2005, one blogger (I forget who) wrote something to the effect that "The opinion on the Catholic blogosphere seems to be that Shanley is a scumbag who was convicted on the only occasion on which he was innocent". He may well have been referring to me because I believe - in common with traditionalists in the Catholic Church in the USA - that Paul Shanley should have been defrocked as soon as he started to advocate - and live - a homosexual lifestyle in the late 1960s. However many of Shanley's long-time critics in the Church seem to have taken his guilt for granted as soon as he was convicted. (I think that is the view taken by the Catholic League for example.) My own view is that the evidence actually presented against him in court was ludicrous and he should never have been convicted on THOSE charges. ONE problem about saying "he had it coming anyway" is that his conviction revived a dying witch-hunt i.e. allegations of child abuse based on Recovered Memory. In the late 1990s Recovered Memory seemed to be following Satanic Ritual Abuse into the dustbin of history but the Shanley case brought it back to life again - and the Massachusetts Supreme Court gave it formal legal approval when they dismissed Shanley's appeal in 2010. That was a disaster for the twin causes of Justice and Truth and Paul Shanley will not be the only one to suffer from that piece of judicial idiocy.

I have written about Paul Shanley here
See in particular the observations of Father Joseph Wilson on Shanley and the "liberal" post-Vatican-II culture in the Catholic Church that produced him.

My article begins "Paul Shanley was both a priest AND a promiscuous homosexual who was a great hero to American liberals and gays - until it suited their purposes to throw him to the wolves....."

Joseph Keffer | 3/3/2016 - 8:38am

I have read a great deal about the abuse scandal and the cover-up. With that in mind, I am inclined to believe that the movie was quite accurately portrayed. There is no vendetta directed against the institutional church nor is there an attempt to explain it away nor to minimize it. The story of this tragedy is beyond belief but cannot be denied. It brought me to tears as did it to my wife.
From the point of view of the cinema as an artform, it was masterfully written, directed and cast. The acting was superb. The academy award as best picture was well deserved.
I encourage you, again, as lovers of the church, to see the movie so that you will appreciate both the magnitude of the scandal and the movie and the impact both have had and will have on the church as we go forward. Millions of others will see it and likely will want to discuss it.
Pray for mercy, in this year of mercy, for Cardinal Law and all the hierarchy who are responsible for the massive abuse and destruction of lives of so many children. I do not think the church has yet to adequately deal with this and I pray that a way will be found to do so. There are far reaching implications for the priesthood and for the church (the people of God).

Crystal Watson | 3/1/2016 - 1:33pm

I finally watched the movie last night. It's really good. I think there is little cause for hope that things will get better, as I wrote in an earlier comment here, because the causes of the abuse and the cover-ups are not being addressed. Both Professor Patrick Parkinson and Bishop Geoffrey Robinson have written about the connection between clergy sex abuse, secrecy, and mandatory celibacy ...

Bruce Snowden | 3/1/2016 - 10:53am

My wife and I watched “Spotlight” and were both shocked and moved by its terrible reality. More than ever the axiom, “Truth hurts” applies. The movie is well-named in that there is a nasty “spot” on the Pope Francis mandated “work-clothes” of the Institutional Catholic Church, on which the “light” of investigative transparency has focused, “dry cleaning” the Church’s dirty spot, not so “dry” really, as much tears flow in the process. If you haven’t seen “Spotlight” go see it!

After viewing the must-see film, the words of the Italian writer, Carlo Carretto came to mind, to which we adhere wholeheartedly. His words are wrenching! “How much must I criticize you my Church. And yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone, and yet I owe more to you than to anyone. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like leaving you, my Church, and yet every night I have prayed that I might die in your warm, loving arms!”

St Augustine once said, (and he should know) quoting St. Paul, that for those who love God all things work together unto good, “even sin!” And crime! Let it be so, Merciful Jesus!

Joseph Keffer | 3/3/2016 - 8:40am

Beautifully written, Bruce. And, especially, thank you for the quote of Carlo Carreto which magnificently expresses my own feelings.
J H Keffer, M.D.

Bruce Snowden | 3/5/2016 - 10:20am

Thanks Dr. Keffer for your kind comment. Yes, Carlo Carreto says it well!

Bender Rodriguez | 2/29/2016 - 1:09pm

When are we going to see the sequel? The story of all the positive things the Church has done since then to address the problems and implement child protection policies and practices?

Timothy Corbitt | 3/2/2016 - 2:56am

Hollywood is not interested in anything positive about the Church. They consider us their enemy, because we are opposed to the societal rot, of which they are so fond.

ed gleason | 2/29/2016 - 4:03pm

The positive things after 35 years of cover-up? The sequel would have to have a person/hero...Who would portray as the savior/hero/bringer of positive things? Name please.

Timothy Corbitt | 3/2/2016 - 3:01am

Who will be the hero of the story of how the exploitation of very young actors and actresses in Hollywood are used up like cannon fodder to feed the sewer of many modern movies. Child exploitation is known to happen much more frequently in the entertainment business than in the Church, or society in general. If you are Roman Polansky, an "artist", it hardly even hurts your reputation at all. I doubt that epic will ever be made.

ed gleason | 3/2/2016 - 7:45pm

Timothy Coribitt... here is what I think about your 'it's not as bad as the other guys' argument.
As I have explained to other Catholic laity minimizers . I worked in the Bell System for thirty years with thousands of men. They worked in homes basements bedrooms schools playgrounds and i never heard of one being accused of child abuse. I worked in an Archdiocese for 9 years. I know and worked with 25 creditably accused priests and monsignors. Do the math..
They know me by name and by sight. Minimizors like you are the damned allies of the cover-up bishops Both of you are the reason that thousands of parishes are closing due to no attendance, especially the young people. . The Minimizers of abuse and the cover-up bishops have destroyed the Faith of millions. And there seems to be no shame. I ask God is to bless the grandparents and give them longer life so that they can be an example, a prayer and keepers of the Faith for a yet unborn generation. .

Timothy Corbitt | 3/2/2016 - 9:34pm

I am surprised that you have the power to determine who is damned or not. I understood that was reserved for God. I guess I should show you more respect. Seriously, I am not minimizing, but I am pointing out that the movie and entertainment industry paints a target on the back of the Church. See the new TV series, "The Real O'Neals", so I don't have much respect for their point of view. I don't think they care much about the children in this story. I think they want to use a movie like this to attack the Church because we get in the way of their agenda of a values free society. We should not make it easy for them, of course, but I don't have to go watch them wave the red shirt in my face, and pay them too

Sandi Sinor | 3/3/2016 - 11:46am

It appears that you may be in denial. Many Catholics remain in denial, in spite of the continuing and ongoing stories ot systematic coverup by the bishops and Rome for decades, all over the world. The current Grand Jury report out of Pennsylvania is as sickening as the Boston story. The Murphy Report from Ireland, the findings of the commission in Australia, ongoing, are not part of a grand Hollywood conspiracy against the church.

Tragically, these events have occurred almost everywhere there are Catholics. Some countries seem to have had more of it than others, especially the English-speaking countries. Canada, US, Australia, Ireland, Great Britain etc. The former Cardinal in Scotland refused to even do an investigation into abuse in Scotland. Later, he was forced to resign and retire by Rome (still supported by the money of the people in the pews). He wasn't forced to resign for refusing to investigate sex abuse of children in Scotland, but because it turns out he had forced seminarians into sexual relationships with him. They feared losing their places in seminary if he was reported.

If there is any conspiracy involved in all of this, it is the conspiracy of silence imposed on the Catholic hierarchy by Rome.

Rome only acted against him after he was accused by other priests. They were indifferent to the pleas of people who had been sexually abused by priests in Scotland.

The crimes were committed by Catholic priests. Everyone knows that these crimes against children happen elsewhere, in families and schools and sport leagues. But when a church claims to be the "one, true church", that claims is alone can speak "infallibly" on matters of faith and morals, and its hierarchy systematically failed to report the worse kinds of crimes against children, and enabled crimes against children by moving priests from parish to parish, including repeat offenders, then this total failure of moral understanding MUST not be denied by the laity.

To do so is to support the enablers. The bishops still try to protect priests. Recent big cases in the US were Kansas City and Minneapolis, and there have been other reports. Not 20 or 30 years ago, but right now.

If you truly love this church, then you must take the moral responsibility to hold bishops and Rome, including the current Pope, accountable for protecting bishops who have protected child molesters.

Crystal Watson | 2/29/2016 - 12:31pm

I wish I could say I was optimistic, but Pope Francis has done nothing to make me feel that way - the movie wasn't just about clergy sex abuse but about the cover-up of that, and the man responsible for it in Boston, Law, was given a great new job in Rome and has never even been criticized by the Vatican. Though invited, Pope Francis wouldn't go to the screening of Spotlight held at the Vatican by the abuse commission ...

ed gleason | 2/29/2016 - 2:20am

I have not yet seen the movie, now the 'best movie' winner. McCarthy, a sometime Catholic layman and his mother has joined many other Catholic lay people who have built the nearly flooded, small dry island where we could stand in dignity and Faith while the muddy waters of abuse cover-up kept rising these last thirty or so years Yes, there was only a dozen priests in the whole country and one bishop from Australia that accompanied us on that small island. We betrayed Catholics have the hope of Faith too and we will slowly build and keep watch on the seawall of that island so no muddy waters of abuse cover-up will breach our Faith. Our prayers now are for a hope that some bishop does not do a trash tweet al la Trump on the media tomorrow.... sorry, not a tweet but a calculated op ed job.

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