'Spotlight' Oscar puts focus on clergy sex abuse of children | Opinion
By Mark Crawford
March 6, 2016
|This photo provided by Open Road Films shows, Michael Keaton, from left, as Walter "Robby" Robinson, Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, Rachel McAdams, as Sacha Pfeiffer, John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr., and Brian d'Arcy |
|This photo provided by courtesy of Open Road Films shows, Rachel McAdams, from left, as Sacha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, Brian d'Arcy James as Matt Carroll, Michael Keaton as Walter "Robby" Robinson and John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr., in a |
|This photo provided by courtesy of Open Road Films shows, Michael Keaton, left, as Walter "Robby" Robinson and Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, in a scene from the film, "Spotlight."|
|This photo provided by Open Road Films shows, Rachel McAdams, from left, as Sacha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes and Brian d'Arcy James as Matt Carroll, in a scene from the film, "Spotlight."|
Last Sunday night at the Academy Awards, in many ways, was an event to remember. Not just because of the controversy so boldly acknowledged by the show's host, Chris Rock regarding the lack of diversity among those nominated for awards, but also because it shined a light on the issue of sexual assault and abuse — an issue which, for much too long, has been one that we as a society would rather not talk about.
A highlight was the appearance of Vice President Joe Biden, who challenged those watching to "pledge to intervene on behalf of those woman and men sexually abused, who did not or cannot consent."
He acknowledged sexual assaults happen to women and men at staggering proportions on college campuses. He then introduced pop star Lady Gaga — herself a sexual assault survivor — who performed a sobering rendition "Til it Happens to You" to the backdrop of a stage filled with sexual abuse survivors.
Finally, from the awarding of the first Oscar to the last — when the Academy chose to honor the movie "Spotlight" as Best Picture, a movie about the importance of investigative journalism and its responsibility to shine a light on issues that must be exposed in an effort to protect and maintain a healthy and safe society.
When "Spotlight" was named best picture, it also gave a voice to the countless victims of sexual abuse — I among them — who hoped this real life story would continue to shine a light on the long-held dark secrets of a powerful institution. It gave us a glimpse of the suffering of those sexually abused as children and the walls that were built to ensure the protection of the powerful, so their secrets remained hidden and victims suffered in silence.
For the countless victims of clergy sexual abuse — many who may never come forward, many who have since lost their struggle for justice and hope and for those who took their own lives in despair — this film is a cry for justice.
This wasn't an action-packed, stunt-driven high-velocity cinematic display. Instead, it was the riveting story of actual events as the "Spotlight" team of reporters unraveled tightly held secrets about the sexual abuse of children within the Catholic church. Its work revealed a systemic problem not just in Boston, but in diocese around the world.
Even as one of the church's own, Father Richard Sipe, tried to warn church leadership about the vast extent of child abuse by clergy, it refused to publicly acknowledge what bishops had known for years. Only when a judge ordered the release of secretly held archives — which exist in every diocese throughout the world — did the people of Boston and the world learn the true extent to which children were repeatedly raped, sodomized and abused from known sexual predator clergy, priests who in many cases were repeatedly returned to ministry in unsuspecting parishes where they assaulted more children.
But it wasn't just about the crimes and sins of an institution and its leadership, but also the blind eye turned by many who knew or should have known that children were being preyed upon. Church officials, law enforcement, prosecutors, lawyers, judges, parents and many others who gave deference to faith leaders played a role in the silence and secrecy that allowed the continued sexual abuse of children.
In the movie, Stanley Tucci, playing attorney Mitchel Garabedian, who zealously fought for abuse victims, states "believe me; if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one."
So I ask, to which village do we belong? Have we done our part to help these victims? Have we demanded lawmakers protect our children instead of the powerful? Have we called upon law enforcement to investigate these institutions that gave safe haven to known predators? Do we really care to know the true extent of the sexual abuse of children in our state?
We can start by telling New Jersey lawmakers to change state law, eliminate the civil statute of limitations for the sexual assault of children so institutions will finally have the impetus to protect children, not themselves and the sexual predators within.