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Truth to Power

By being focused and understated, the award-winning 2015 Hollywood film, Spotlight, exposes more than the sexual misdoings of priests of the Catholic Church in Boston, United States.

Spotlight, the much-touted Hollywood crime drama film made last year, tells the compelling story of a team of journalists from the Boston Globe who investigated cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Boston, Massachusetts. Their investigative stories—the first of which was published in January 2002—found that the “practice” of child abuse by priests was not only widespread, but had been going on for decades, with the higher clergy actively “covering up” cases of child sexual abuse through out-of-court, off-the-record settlements. Their investigative stories led many more victims of child abuse to come forward in the United States and the world over. The Catholic church—indeed the Pope himself—has since had to acknowledge that child sexual abuse is a serious concern.

The title of the film derives from the name of Boston Globe’s small investigative team, Spotlight, established to provide “deeper coverage” in September 1970. Marty Baron, who became editor of the paper in end-July 2001, assigned Spotlight to investigate the allegations of child sexual abuse against Catholic priests. Baron wanted to follow up on Eileen McNamara’s article, “A Familiar Pattern,” in the Boston Globe (22 July 2001). McNamara connected the dots and raised pertinent questions on Church accountability.

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