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Spotlight

I finally viewed Spotlight, the movie which fictionalized the investigation by the Boston Globe into the rape and subsequent cover up scandal that was first revealed in early 2002. Whether the movie angered you, made you depressed, or frustrated; I think you have to admit that it was a very well done movie. It followed the model that “All the President’s Men” laid down with regard to actual journalistic investigation and I wonder why given the scope of their investigation that the reporters involved haven’t become household names.

Typically, I try and stay away from focusing on scandals. The reason is that most of the time it can be waved away with the claim that the actions of one person or a few people are to blame. Usually, this can be said to be true, however the real story of Spotlight isn’t the investigation into the allegations of child rape, it’s the cover up. One can rightly say that even at the 6% estimation that was given in the movie, and actual investigation, were the actions of a group of varied individuals with little connection to each other with the exception of their employer. However the uniting fact behind them is the cover up, that they were allowed to continue to work as a respected member of the community with the only difference being the location of that work.

What’s amazing about the story itself is how it was a known problem. The HBO documentary “Maxima Mea Culpa” highlights the same problem with a group of deaf children. In all of the cases, and only until very recently, the principle pattern seems to have been: identify the person, pay off the victims, and then shift the perpetrator to somewhere else. Spotlight’s discovery was that the alleged perpetrators were literally being moved around in the same city. Now, they apparently send them to different countries.

I have some personal experience with this: no, I was never sexually assaulted by a faculty member of either of the two Catholic schools I attended nor was I ever sexually assaulted by a member of the Clergy. I just feel the need to get that out of the way.

However, I have learned that my first year religion teacher in high school was arrested for “inappropriate conversations with several teenage boys” and “possession of child pornography” by which he received a twenty year sentence  which will be suspended after five years. I will stress that no physical action had been accused. The former priest, yes he’s been defrocked, was my first year religious teacher and if memory serves me well should have been my sophomore year instructor as well but he was transferred somewhere else returning to the school in 2000.

I remember talking with him at an ex-girlfriend’s brother’s high school graduation party around 2002 where he told me the most ridiculous thing: that businesses existed in order to enrich the community and god. What I don’t remember is whether I ever asked him why he was transferred out–that was just one of those things that happened. I know what it sounds like I’m implying and I don’t think I can state what I know to be a fact without making such an implication. The pattern fits, of course it does, he was a teacher for exactly one year before leaving for seven years and then a return. Given what we now know it’s certainly possible that an accusation was made, but I can’t stress enough that there is no evidence for it.

Is criticizing the Catholic Church for this problem a bit overdone? I mean, has this subject been beaten to death? Well it depends on what we are talking about. Other than the story which was about a person that I knew, nothing I’ve said was new information. The Oscar winning movie came out last year and plenty of pixels have burned with commentary about this. On one hand talking about it is repetitive.

Yet, if something would change, if the church itself wasn’t so tenacious in its fight against being held responsible for its role in all of this. Their machinery has pretty much given up the fight to hold the clergy under its protection in this country. If a priest today is accused of a sex crime they pretty much turn the individual over to the proper authorities, which in this case is anyone but them, at least that is what they have said. As recently as 2014, we have seen Minnesota that they not only protected a priest but promoted the individual after numerous complaints were made to them as late as 2009. The Vatican is looking into whether or not its new protocols regarding allegations of misconduct apply retroactively to this case.

What’s more damning and more indicative of an organization that serves itself rather than the flock it is supposed to be watching over is the fight this year over whether or not the statue of limitations on allegations should be lifted. Let us remember what is at issue here, the Church is opposed to lifting the statute of limitations on allegations of child sexual assault. This isn’t like theft, where a thing is gone, but an action which can irrevocably destroy a person’s life and the church wants to make sure that after a certain point of time the legal ramifications of that crime can no longer be brought to bear. Why? Because they are afraid of bankruptcy.

The current law states that criminal charges must be brought by the victim’s 23rd birthday while civil complaints must be brought by the 28th. This was a compromise which makes me wonder how they arrived at this bargain. Was the 29th birthday too long for them? Why did they agree that the 28th birthday was ok? What’s the freekin difference. I write this as I am currently engaged in an argument over whether or not atheists can be moral and how that’s destroying our country. Well, if the Vatican’s morality is what people ought to stand on then they can keep them.

 

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