Following the ‘Spotlight’

Editor of

Many filmgoers are describing the exciting drama Spotlight as the best movie about journalism since All the President’s Men. During the Academy Award ceremony on Sunday, several electrifying appeals were broadcast to the whole world about combatting sexual abuse. Lady GaGa’s stirring solo, supported by survivors of abuse and Vice President Joe Biden, was followed by several appeals by members of the Spotlight crew.

For me, watching Spotlight took me right back to my desk at The Detroit Free Press, where I was part of the nationwide press corps that uncovered the pattern of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. I find the film important, the subject deeply troubling and I have high praise for that team of reporters in Boston who comprehensively showed the tragic scope of the cover up extended to the highest levels of the Catholic church.

But the fact is: Many reporters at many newspapers revealed this larger pattern of abuse. I was one of those reporters as were journalists Patricia Montemurri, Jim Schaefer, Kathleen O’Gorman, Bill McGraw and others in Detroit. Simply look at the final credits in Spotlight! The producers added a very long list of cities around the world where patterns of abuse by Catholic clergy were uncovered. There are so many cities listed that the tiny type is almost unreadable. It’s a heart-breaking sign of the scope of the problem.

This truly was a global story and many researchers and reporters contributed to pulling back the curtains on this tragedy.

I’m not alone in making this kind of judgment about the movie’s significance. Author and long-time pastoral counselor Benjamin Pratt, who wrote one of our other movie-related columns this week, has this to say about Spotlight:

Spotlight shines a searchlight on the horrific abuses by Catholic priests, the suffering of the abused, and the institutional coverup. All of this has been recorded in countless media exposés in recent years. One of the most important aspects of the film is its witness to the vital, necessary, investigative work of journalism. The insightful decision of the editor to focus, not on the individual cases, but the embedded institutional cover up of sexual abuse of children paved the way for the beginnings of justice. This film underscores the vital necessity of investigative journalism as a moral arm of our culture.

Or read this 5-out-of-5-star movie review by faith-and-film writer Edward McNulty.

I am writing about this film myself, this week, to point out several very helpful resources, if you are concerned about this problem and want to equip yourself to help with the solution.


The book behind the movie is called, Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church—The findings of the investigation that inspired the major motion picture SpotlightAt more than 300 pages, the book explains a great deal about how this problem unfolded and reached such tragic proportions. May we all be vigilant about not letting this happen in our houses of worship and community groups.


As we view the movie Spotlight, we all are introduced to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). At first, the skeptical Boston editors actually make fun of the organization, even its name as well as the strong passions that motivate SNAP’s volunteers to expose patterns of abuse. As the movie unfolds, those same editors learn that SNAP was a pioneer in seeking the truth.

In fact, today, SNAP is a well-respected advocacy group. Here is a Wikipedia page about SNAP’s history. And here is the main SNAP website.



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  1. Debra Darvick says

    What was even more searing than the movie, David, were the final credits at the movies end.
    Screen after screen detailing the cities where the abuse by priests had been uncovered worldwide.
    It wasn’t just Boston but world-wide, systemic. City after city, country after country. If this had been
    a school with satellite campuses worldwide, they would have been shut down, wouldn’t they?