I love Pope Francis. I love his focus on the poor and needy. But that love is greatly tempered by the fact that Cardinal Bernard Francis Law lives like a goddamn king in Rome after resigning as Archbishop of Boston and fleeing from state troopers. Why did he resign and flee you ask? Well, that is the story that the fantastic yet utterly horrifying movie Spotlight is all about.
Long, horrific story short: Cardinal Law covered for over 270 priests who molested over 1,000 children in the Boston area from the 1960's to the 1990's (and I don't believe it just suddenly started in the 60s, so who knows how many actual victims there are). Cardinal Law was then given an honorary title by Saint Pope John Fucking Paul II only two years after the scandal broke and served in Rome until 2011. He remains there, free, to this day.
More than 270 priests were child molesters in Boston alone. More than 1000 victims. In Boston alone. Priests across the globe were molesting kids, and Cardinals and Archbishops and the fucking Pope himself were covering it up. Hundreds of thousands of victims all across the globe, and those are just the ones we know about.
Yeah. Fuck Cardinal Law. And fuck Pope Francis for not doing enough to right the wrongs of the church. I'm glad he's put a renewed focus on the poor and disenfranchised, but he needs to immediately remove all abusive priests, and anyone who protected them, and make actual reparations to the victims. There's enough gold in the Vatican to buy a damn continent, they can dish out some money to their rape victims.
I imagine this movie would be brutal for practicing Catholics, and I feel for them. Questioning long held beliefs and learning something awful about an organization that you have belonged to and loved and trusted your whole life is difficult. It hurts. Mark Ruffalo acts as an avatar for the audience, especially any Catholics; he is the most visibly and outwardly disturbed by the whole thing and we see the pain he feels as he discovers more and more about the church he grew up in. But as Carl Jung said, "there is no coming to consciousness without pain." All Catholics should be reflecting on what this scandal means for them. If you're not disgusted and if you don't question your involvement with such an organization, you are part of the problem. I talked to a 65 year old lifelong Catholic the day after watching the movie and she told me she wanted to go out and punch a priest (or ten) in the face after seeing it. That is the only proper response.
I've had issues with the Catholic Church for a long time, even before I completely embraced atheism; from their discrimination of LGBT and their overall shitty views towards women, to the embezzlement scandals and the CHILD MOLESTATION scandal, they basically stood for everything I opposed. For a while now I've just ignored religion. I try to do my own thing and let everyone believe in whatever they want to believe in. When I was in my early 20s and beginning to fully embrace my atheism, I was more outward in my hate for religion, and Catholicism in particular. I would have converted the world to atheism if I could have. I eventually realized that hate is only hurting me, and the approach of yelling at people about their misguided views doesn't really work as a conversion tactic. In fact, it comes off as dickish, no matter how right it may be (see, even that is kinda dickish). I didn't want to become Richard Dawkinsish, so I decided to just let it all go. It was great.
Then this movie brought back all that hate with a vengeance. I feel like going around knocking on people's doors like a Gervaisian Witness and just yelling at everyone to wake up and protest the church for covering up RAMPANT CHILD ABUSE.
I followed the WORLDWIDE CHILD MOLESTATION scandal when it broke, so I was familiar with the abuse and the cover up before seeing Spotlight, but I never fully grasped the scope of the abuse or how many people were implicated. The fact is, everyone is guilty. Throw the fucking "bad apple" theory right out the window; or at least, heed the wisdom of the entire saying: A bad apple spoils the bunch. The priests themselves are guilty, obviously, and they should be prosecuted as criminals, but many never will. The Cardinal and others are guilty for allowing it to happen, and they should be prosecuted as criminals, but never will. The only "punishment" most of the molesters received was relocation. They were simply moved around to different towns in which they could terrorize more children. Some were forced to resign, a few were arrested. Many are still working as priests.
The heads of Catholic schools and other Catholic institutions are guilty for covering it up and doing nothing to stop it. The media is guilty for, at the least, ignoring it, and at worst, covering it up. The attorneys who defended the abusers are guilty, not for defending the criminals because that's what defense attorneys are for, but for taking the cases outside of the court and settling directly with the Church, allowing the Church to continue the abuse and not face criminal charges or even be on official record. The government is guilty for letting the church deal with rampant child abuse on their own terms for such a long period of time and not in a court of law (while the church avoids millions in taxes, of course).
And yes, everyday Catholics in Boston and other cities where major scandals were uncovered are guilty for not speaking up and oftentimes telling victims to "let it go" and "move on" to avoid any disruptions in their own lives.
This movie made me more upset than any movie before (except maybe Fruitvale Station). My skin was crawling at certain points, like when a former priest admitted to a reporter that he molested kids but wanted to emphasize that "he never got any pleasure from it. That's an important distinction you know." That's the mentality of these fuckers. They are not doing anything wrong in their minds, and of course, the people in charge reinforced that notion. That was the culture that the Catholic Church bred, and as the movie points out, it all starts with the celibacy pact. According to experts, only about 50% of priests actually follow the rule of celibacy, so it creates a culture of secrecy and guilt around sex, even consensual adult sex. That culture of secrecy, combined with an all male clergy, the status that comes with being a "man of God," and access to children, make a recipe for disaster.
The movie does a great job of exposing all the different layers of the scandal and explaining how such unbelievably awful acts became so commonplace. It was the secret that everyone knew.
One of the most powerful aspects of the film were the long, lingering scenery shots: giant churches overlooking schools or playgrounds; a creepy "safehouse" for molester-priests on the same street as one of the reporter's house. The disgust is felt on a visceral and subconscious level. The use of contrast is very powerful: there is a scene with kids laughing on a playground in the shadow of a giant church directly after a scene in which a victim explains in detail the abuse he experienced. It is really disturbing, especially when you think of the power and scope of the Catholic Church. Watching a school bus let kids out in front of a church made me think about all of the hours I spent as a child in or around the church. It made me think of all of the children who still have to interact with these monsters because they were never charged. It made me think of all the Catholic schools where young children are indoctrinated into the worldview of these sick assholes. It made me think of all the good people who blindly trust priests with their own private thoughts, and blindly trust them with their own kids.
It also made me feel powerless and hopeless. I still haven't shaken that feeling, in fact. Organizations like the Catholic Church, with their massive amounts of power, money, and membership, are virtually untouchable. They will always win. The poor and the children (especially the poor children) will always get screwed by the rich and powerful; in this case, quite literally.
The film follows the reporters as they investigate so we learn more about the case as they do, and the more you learn, the more you realize how many people and organizations were affected and infected by these disgusting acts. The lack of care and consideration for the most disadvantaged, by the very people who claim to care for the disadvantaged, is appalling. As one lawyer who represented the victims stated, "It's not just the physical abuse, this was spiritual abuse." I'm an atheist, and that damn near moved me to scream at the screen. It is an abuse of someone's entire belief system. In interviews, many of the victims talked about how they viewed the priests as God himself. These were "men of the cloak" expressing an interest in them, something nobody had ever done. One of the victims just lost his father to suicide and his mother was a drug addict. These were children at their most vulnerable, being abused by men who proclaimed to have their best interests in mind and God on their side.
And I think that spiritual abuse extends to any and all good Catholics, even those not abused. This is an organization that lied to you about one of the most horrific crimes imaginable. The same organization that purports to lead you in the right way in the eyes of an all-seeing all-knowing God. An organization that claims to be the one true religion in the world. That's fucked up.
The end of the movie shows a list of every place where a large-scale abuse scandal was uncovered, and it is disgustingly long. But the worst part...the worst fucking part, is that most of these FUCKING CHILD MOLESTER PRIESTS have never truly been brought to justice, and in many cases, are still serving as priests. I can not express that enough. Cardinal Law, who knew all about everything and covered it all up, was given an honorary position in the fucking Vatican. The highest office of the Catholic Church. One of the main guys who oversaw the relocation of CHILD MOLESTER PRIESTS became Pope Fucking Benedict. The Catholic Church has a billion dollar defense fund specifically for child abuse cases.
I've never used this many italics or capital letters in my writing in my life. I can not accurately express how angry this movie made me. And not angry at the quality of the movie, like with The Walk. This movie was superbly crafted. Michael Keaton does not do bad movies. No, this movie legit made me mad at the fucking world.
I'm not telling anyone what to do with their life or their faith or their Sunday mornings, but for myself, personally, I could never, EVER give my time, let alone my spirit or fucking money, to an organization that grooms and protects child molesters.
Children. Abused sexually, emotionally, and spiritually by the so-called gatekeepers of morality.
I almost wish there was a hell so that these fuckers could rot for eternity because unfortunately the world is sadistically unfair and most will never have to truly account for what they did. So at the very least, they can get a big fat FUCK YOU from me.
Join me, won't you?
I Love You All (EXCEPT YOU CHILD MOLESTING PRIESTS AND EVERYONE WHO HELPED COVER UP THE ABUSE. FUCK YOU.)...Class Dismissed.