The path to truth telling is never an easy path to take, and that is especially true in the movie Spotlight. Often, the truth is hidden, and uncovering certain truths can often stir up major conflicts.
The movie Spotlight is about several journalists from the Boston Globe attempting to uncover the truth about sexual abuse and molestation within the Catholic church.
I mentioned how truth is never an easy path to take. Well, in this case, it was an especially rough path to take because the Catholic church is extremely powerful, especially within Boston. Not only that, but 87 priests, which is 6% of the priest population in Boston, have molested kids since the 1970’s.
Of course this is a story, or a secret that journalists want to show the country, but since the Catholic church’s power and assumed knowledge and cover up of such horrific acts, the journalists took a lot of heat when investigating, even from friends and people within their own community.
Interestingly enough, the knowledge of such acts had been known for quite awhile, even within the Boston Globe. In fact, evidence and a list of names had been sent to the Boston Globe 5 years prior, but the items simply got buried by Walter Robinson. This is why an outsider, Martin Baron in this specific case, was just what the Boston Globe, Boston, and ultimately country needed in order to crack this horrific case right open.
This is because Baron was unaware of the power and influence that the Catholic church truly held in Boston, which meant he was unbiased and unafraid to dig deep. Former reporters had known that revealing such horrific truths would result in a massive war. Because of that, the knowledge of molestation within the Catholic church was simply buried and suppressed. Again, by being from out of town, Baron didn’t care what he stirred up and what the possible outcomes were, he was focused on one thing and one thing only: the truth.
What made the path to truth especially difficult was the precautionary actions taken by the Catholic church. Ultimately, the church manipulated the courts and protected the priests knowing they committed these acts. For example, the church actually removed public and legal documents from the courthouse.
Another reason the path to truth was difficult was the gruesomeness of the molestation acts. The acts were so disgusting that it was both difficult to get victims to speak as well as publish the details of the acts. Phil Saviano, a victim of molestation, said “I was eleven. And I was preyed upon by father David Holly in Wester. And I don’t mean prayed for, I mean preyed upon. How can you say no to God right?” Saviano also added that, “When you grow older, you try the pills, bottles, and belts. If that doesn’t work, you jump off a bridge. That’s why they call us survivors.”
A second victim, Joe Crowley, mentioned how “they (the priests) become your friend, buy you ice cream, and take care of you. Then when they ask you to strip you can’t say no.” He also added that, “I knew I was gay at the time, the priest made me feel accepted, and then exploited me.”
A third reason the path to truth was so difficult was because such gruesome accusations, whether you know they are true or not, need to be accompanied by conclusive, rock-hard, evidence. This is especially true when you are going up against a superpower, and in this case, it was the Catholic church. The evidence existed, but with people skeptical to speak up combined with the church removing legal documents, it was difficult to create a solid case.
I also mentioned previously that the journalists from the Boston Globe has issues with people within the community and even their friends. This can be seen in the relationship between Robinson and Jim Sullivan. Sullivan was an old friend of Robinson’s. However, interestingly enough, Sullivan was an attorney who defended priests accused of child molestation on behalf of the Boston Archdiocese previously. Knowing this, Robinson constantly tried getting information from him, but Sullivan constantly denied any requests as he claimed that he couldn’t reveal anything as it would be a breach of attorney-client confidentiality.
Moving on, the entire case started affecting the journalists both physically and emotionally. For example, Mike Rezendez lashed out in a meeting claiming that “It could’ve been me! It could’ve been you! It could’ve been any of us!”
Another example of journalists being affected can be seen with Sacha Pfeiffer. It had been a tradition for her to go to church with her grandmother, but after taking on the case, it became difficult for her to sit their and listen to a priest. Because of this, she actually stopped going to church.
However, perhaps the most iconic example of a journalist being physical and emotionally affected by the case was Robinson in his final attempt to get information from Sullivan. Robinson actually showed up to Sullivan’s house late at night. They spoke back and forth and then Robinson ultimately shamed Sullivan for protecting the priests. Sullivan claimed that, “I was doing my job.” and Robinson responded with one of the most memorable quotes throughout the movie, “Yeah, you and everyone else.”
This extremely angered Sullivan and he told Robinson to “get out of my house”. Robinson left and it appeared that this was the end of a friendship as well as another failure of Robinson getting information for Sullivan. However, as Robinson was entering his car, Sullivan came out. They professionally spoke to one another, and although Sullivan wanted to tell Robinson information, he couldn’t because attorney-client confidentiality, and, if ever caught, the Catholic church would punish as hard as legally possible.
Knowing this, rather than verbally giving Robinson information, he simply circled the names of upwards of 70 priests who we’re involved in molesting children. This was just the break that Robinson needed, and the story, according to the movie, was publish a day after.
As you can see, the path to truth was difficult. There were several variables that made the path so difficult, such as the power of the Catholic church, the lack of conclusive evidence, the precaution takes by the church to protect themselves, and the physical and emotional toll on the journalists. However, the journalists stayed focused and ultimately published one of the most iconic stories in U.S. history. Not only that, but the several victims, or survivors were able to come out of hiding and find help and ultimately receive closure.