Head of papal abuse commission praises 'Spotlight'

Head of papal abuse commission praises 'Spotlight'

The head of Pope Francis’ special commission on clergy sexual abuse has praised the “Spotlight” movie as “an important film” and praised the role journalists played in revealing the Catholic Church’s coverup of clergy sexual abuse. “By providing in-depth reporting on the history of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the

The head of Pope Francis’ special commission on clergy sexual abuse has praised the “Spotlight” movie as “an important film” and praised the role journalists played in revealing the Catholic Church’s coverup of clergy sexual abuse.

“By providing in-depth reporting on the history of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the media led the Church to acknowledge the crimes and sins of its personnel and to begin to address its failings, the harm done to victims and their families and the needs of survivors,” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston — the setting for the movie — said in a statement Tuesday.

“In a democracy such as ours, journalism is essential to our way of life. The media’s role in revealing the sexual abuse crisis opened a door through which the Church has walked in responding to the needs of survivors,” he continued.

The film, which chronicles the 2001 Boston Globe investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Boston, won the best picture Academy Award Sunday night.

O’Malley, who heads the Vatican commission charged with creating protocols for how the Church deals with allegations of sexual abuse, highlighted changes the archdiocese made following the Globe’s investigation.

“We are committed to vigilant implementation of policies and procedures for preventing the recurrence of the tragedy of the abuse of children,” he said. “These include comprehensive child safety education programs, mandatory background checks and safe environments training, mandatory reporting to and cooperating with civil authorities with regard to allegations of abuse, and caring for survivors and their families.”

O’Malley said the archdiocese continues to provide counseling and medical services to survivors and their family members, and that protecting “children and providing support for survivors and their families must be a priority in all aspects of the life of the Church.”

“We continue to seek the forgiveness of all who have been harmed by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse and pray that each day the Lord may guide us on the path toward healing and renewal,” he said.

O’Malley’s comments echo those made Monday by the Vatican’s radio station and newspaper, which also praised the film.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, said Spotlight was not anti-Catholic, and that it “has the courage to denounce cases which must be condemned without hesitation.”

It also had “given voice to the shock and the profound grief of the faithful before the discovery of these horrible realities.”

Marie Collins, who serves on the Vatican commission with O’Malley, called Spotlight “a wonderful tribute to journalists and survivors everywhere who refuse to be silenced in their fight for justice.”

In his acceptance speech Sunday, the film’s producer delivered a message to Pope Francis.

“This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican,” said Michael Sugar. “Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”

In an interview published last week with America magazine, the film’s director, Tom McCarthy, said he is “very excited” about Pope Francis, calling him “a very forward-thinking, inclusive, progressive, reform-minded person.”

He said he’s cautiously optimistic about Francis’ ability to make changes in the Church, including in the area of child protection.

“What remains to be seen is how much change, how much action happens under his guidance. I think you just have to wait and see,” he said.

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