Updated November 19, 2015 10:56 PM
By BART JONES [email protected]
Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams star in “Spotlight,” a drama about The Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church’s child-sex scandal. Photo Credit: Open Road Films / Kerry Hayes
A film that opens nationwide Friday about The Boston Globe’s breakthrough investigation of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in 2002 is getting mixed reactions from the church itself, ranging from criticism to recommendations that people go see it.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued guidelines to dioceses around the country on how to handle the film, “Spotlight,” which opens at scores of theaters, including those on Long Island.
The movie stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and others as Globe reporters and editors who recreate the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning unearthing of priests’ abuse of children and Catholic Church higher-ups’ knowledge of it, which rocked the church worldwide. The film has received many positive reviews, including one from the official
The U.S. bishops see the film as an opportunity to highlight all the good the church has done since the scandal broke to ensure such abuse never happens again. They also want to assure people that what is depicted in the movie is far from the current situation.
“In our experience, Catholics and others will take the movie as proof of what is happening today, not what happened in the past,” said the conference’s Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, based in Washington, D.C. “Do not let past events discourage you. This is an opportunity to raise the awareness of all that has been done to prevent child sexual abuse in the church. There is much good news to share.”
The advisory memo counsels dioceses to acknowledge the church’s wrongdoing, as well as the role of journalists and victims in exposing the harboring of pedophile priests. It encourages church leaders to “be open and transparent about any abuse in the diocese,” and to make “sincere apologies to victims/survivors and their families.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, whom the Vatican appointed archbishop of Boston in 2003 in a move analysts said was aimed at cleaning up the mess of the scandal, said the film depicts “a very painful time” in the church’s history.
O’Malley told the archdiocesan newspaper The Pilot that the movie illustrates how the newspaper’s reports prompted the church “to deal with what was shameful and hidden.” A spokesman for the archdiocese said O’Malley plans to see the film soon.
“Despite what Hollywood promulgates and wishes for us to believe,” he added, “I would say that it would be nice for Hollywood to commission a picture on heroes — the true heroes that are the hundreds of Catholic priests and religious women who day in and day out care for the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry, those in need of spiritual and pastoral support.”
“Why doesn’t Hollywood film a movie that looks at the good that these women and men do every day without looking for recognition or fame?” he said. “That’s a movie I would see.”
Some survivors of the sex abuse scandal said they thought the church’s claims that it has made great strides in protecting children were exaggerated.
“I’m really glad it [the film] is getting this attention,” said John Salveson, a former Long Islander who said he was abused as a child at St. Dominic Church in Oyster Bay.