Survivors of clergy sex abuse hope “Spotlight” film brings victims forward


By Scott Malone October 30, 2015

Survivors of clergy sex abuse said they hope the upcoming film “Spotlight,” about the Boston Globe’s groundbreaking report that Roman Catholic officials routinely covered up abuse by priests, prompts more victims to publicly confront their abusers.

The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing in 2002 that church officials routinely covered up reports that priests had sexually assaulted children, setting off a global wave of investigations that found similar patterns at dioceses around the world.

The scandal damaged the Catholic Church worldwide, undermining its moral authority and requiring costly legal settlements. The church is still struggling with the crisis, which Pope Francis addressed last month on his historic first visit to the United States, meeting with victims and declaring that “God weeps” for their pain.

The film, which focuses on the work of the investigative reporters who spent months tracking down sealed court records, victims and abusive priests, does not depict abuse but shows the heavy emotional toll it took on survivors, many of whom turned to alcohol, drugs or suicide when unable to overcome their pain.

“I do think it will encourage more survivors who are still trapped in silence and shame and suffering to find the courage to speak up,” said David Clohessy, who runs the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and was sexually assaulted by a priest as a teenager. …

Terence McKiernan, president of, which maintains records on abuse and cover ups, said he worries that a movie set more than a decade ago could lead some viewers to believe the crisis had passed.

“It wouldn’t be a bad thing for people to ask themselves in what ways is this continuing and in what ways is it better,” said McKiernan, who has seen the film. “How is it that this terrible problem duplicated itself around the world, and what do we do about that?”

Insurance experts told a Vatican conference in 2012 that as many as 100,000 U.S. children may have been the victims of clerical sex abuse. Some 12 U.S. dioceses have filed for bankruptcy since the scandal broke, in part due to more than $3 billion in settlements paid to victims.

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