Joseph Crowley, Sexual Abuse Victim and Advocate Depicted in ‘Spotlight,’ Dies at 58

By Ross A. Lincoln
April 17, 2017

Joseph Crowley, a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic Priest who went public about his experiences as part of the Boston Globe investigation that served as the basis for the film “Spotlight,” died on Easter Sunday, the Boston Globe is reporting. He was 58, and had long suffered from heart and respiratory ailments.

Actor Michael Cyril Creighton, who portrayed Crowley in the Oscar-winning film, paid tribute to him in a post on Facebook. Crowley, said Creighton, was “a strong man, a resilient man,” who “bravely spoke about his abuse in order to help others, and never spent a moment feeling sorry for himself.”

Crowley was a high school student when he was raped by Paul Shanley, priest and educator at Boston College High School, where Crowley was a student. Shanley would later be defrocked by the church for an unrelated instance of sexual abuse, but was not reported to the authorities.

Crowley kept the experience a secret for most of his life, but came forward during the Boston Globe’s investigation into systemic sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and efforts by Church hierarchy to cover it up. He would later become one of the first victims of clergy sexual abuse to make his name public. After Shanley was convicted in 2005 for indecent assaults and the rape of a male minor, Crowley became an advocate for other victims.

“Every time somebody speaks up about this, every time one of us speaks up and talks about this, it’s going to be more difficult for someone to rape a child, to rape any person,” Crowley told the Boston Globe in a 2016 interview.

Crowley, who grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, is survived by his mother, brother, and three sisters. A memorial service for friends and family is planned for April 22.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.