Ok, so I had today’s post all ready to go, I was going to write something about the coming of Advent. That is, until I heard about a movie coming out this week. Maybe you have already heard about it? It is a movie that, if you are Catholic, may bring up some bad memories.
The name of the movie is “Spotlight”. It is based on The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in 2002, and the stories, and the reporters behind the investigation. I don’t know anything more about the content of the movie, other than what I gleaned from watching the trailer.
I must say, it was uncomfortable for me to watch. You see, I love my Catholic faith and this movie depicts a very ugly time in its history. As I pondered my own reaction to this movie, it occurred to me that there will most likely be a wide variety of reactions. Although it might be uncomfortable to watch the movie, I think it is a great opportunity for us, as Catholics, to re-examine those events, decide how we feel, and how we will respond.
I feel the Globe’s Spotlight investigative group did us all a great service, as they uncovered not just one terrible crime, but two. They uncovered and exposed the actual abuse, as well as the cover up committed by Church officials, and others. I am grateful that their investigation prompted authorities to root this evil out of our Church. There is something that is bothering me though, they talk about the perpetrators of this heinous crime as if they were the Church herself. Now remember I have only seen the trailer so far, so I don’t know if that is cleared up during the movie, but I’m willing to bet that it’s not. Not because they are out to get the Catholic Church, but because they don’t understand the Catholic Church.
If the trailer is an authentic indication of the movie, they will present the idea that the Church is her leaders and the behavior of those leaders is the behavior of the Church. Thankfully, the Catholic Church is not our officials. Just as with anything there are good leaders and there are bad leaders. A great parallel is the governing system in our country. We have great leaders and we definitely have horrible ones. But in either case the leaders do not define America.
As Catholics we have an opportunity. The opportunity to acknowledge and accept that what happened was deplorable. We can acknowledge that evil exists, sometimes even in our own church. We can be thankful that the evil was uncovered and rooted out. We can understand that the priests who committed the crimes, and the officials who covered for them are not “the Church”.
Our opportunity is also in the response we choose. We might be tempted to respond in one of two unproductive ways, become defensive or avoid it altogether. There is another way, a better way. We can choose to be honest with ourselves and with those who might challenge us. We can admit it was wrong, horribly wrong, without blaming the Church, herself. We can celebrate the fact that the evil has been exposed.
As for me, I too am outraged. I too am sickened at the thought of such abuse. I too want justice. My heart is incredibly heavy with sorrow, for the pain these men caused for so many people. Even though I acknowledge that these church leaders were blatantly using their position to perpetrate this evil, it is the men that failed us, not the Catholic Faith.
I love my Catholic faith. So, for me, it is important that I lean into the challenge of separating those evil men from what I love.