The movie “Spotlight” received Best Picture last evening at the 88th Annual Academy Awards. Click here for an article describing why it won and maybe why it should not have received the honors. Click for an article from the LA Times. I was so pleased when I watched as the Oscar was given to this ensemble cast.
I am grateful because I know the Church needs to continue to change and to become more accountable to the world in so many ways. In the ten years since the Boston Globe focused a great light on such darkness, the Church is on its way toward developing programs to keep our children safe now and in the future. These programs have changed my priesthood and my awareness of the aftermath of abuse that is remembered among our families. I pray that I may see the day when a movie is made about how the Church has responded in a positive manner. In the meantime, we need to constantly change, to mend our ways, to realize the crimes we have committed in order to protect ourselves.
I remember ten years ago when I mentioned the abuse scandal in a homily. A parishioner at the time approached me after Mass and said, “Please Father, do not say the abuse scandal of the clergy, rather say the sex crimes of the clergy.” I was deeply humbled by her comment. As the years have gone by, the crimes of abuse have come close to my priesthood. I have a friend who is spending his life in prison because of his sexual crimes on minors. I have heard the results of the Church’s silence many times in my office and in the confessional. I have come to God in tears so many times in these years and I pray that healing may happen on so many levels beginning within my own heart.
It just so happened that I mentioned “Spotlight” in my homily yesterday. I mentioned it as part of the second chance of the fig tree, (Luke 13). We all need a second chance including the Church as an institution. We need to be cut down to the truth, so that the truth will set us free. We all need a second chance and this movie reveals again the crimes of the clergy and the coverup all over again. Healing around this issue in the Church will take generations. In the meantime, we all need to change. We need to recognize the core of who we are and what we are about. We need love to prevail, the love only God offers us to live as disciples of humility, mercy and peace. There is much work to do still within our parishes and in other institutions. A stunning line in the movie said that it takes a village to raise a child and it also takes a village to cover up the abuse. I pray that it also takes a village to be educated and to live a new life of healing and concern. It takes a village to develop programs to protect our children in the future. I still want to be part of the healing village.
In these past years, I have realized that real reform will have to come from our people. We need the truth. We need to recognize what does not work in priestly formation and what will give our vocations freedom and hope serving God’s people. We struggle with so many issues, in so many ways. I really liked the fact that the reporters at the Boston Globe were part of the community that they served. They understood in such a human way what their journalism would do to real people, to their own family and friends. Their words and actions would hurt deeply, yet they dared to touch the truth. Real transformation and conversion comes from within and also outside, from within the Church and in our daily lives in the world.
I am deeply saddened about the abuse and crimes from my brothers. I pray constantly for them. I pray for our young people who have been forever hurt. I pray for people who also use these crimes as an excuse not to be part of the Church. I pray for people who can no longer pray because of their pain.
In my ministry among people in poverty and on the margins of life, I realize that any child in poverty who has been abused will never fully heal. Their chance of living a productive life is small. When poverty is the background for such abuse, multiple addictions will occur. Mental illness and homeless will surely follow. These are my experiences from real people who have been hurt by the Church. I am grateful for “Spotlight” and the light that shines today on the darkness of our past. God, have mercy on us.