Spotlight, a Best Picture contender at the Oscars, is a gripping exploration of how reporters at the Boston Globe revealed rampant sexual abuse among priests in Boston and the lengths to which the clergy went to keep those crimes under-wraps.
On Thursday, the movie was screened for a special audience: The Vatican commission on clerical sex abuse.
As the L.A. Times reports, the private screening took place in the church where Pope Francis (when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio) stayed before he was elected as pope in 2013. The viewing kicked off a three-day meeting of the commission.
The commission includes survivors of the church abuse, like Peter Saunders, who was abused by a Catholic priest as a child and told the Times that now is “a good moment for the pope” to see Spotlight.
The screening was closed to journalists. The pope, reportedly, did not attend, and the Vatican has not released an official statement on Spotlight. Pope Francis has been criticized before for not doing enough to aid victims of the abuse. Last year, he appointed Chilean Bishop Juan Barros to the diocese of Osorno in Chile. Saunders told the Times that there were “very credible” accusations that Barros “covered up for a predator priest, Father Fernando Karadima, who was punished by the Vatican.” From the Times:
Last May, Francis told a group of Chileans to ignore Barros’ critics, who include survivors of abuse by Karadima.
“Think with your heads and do not be led by the noses by the lefties who orchestrated this whole thing,” Francis said.
“Francis has said phenomenally damaging and painful things about survivors,” said Saunders. “People in Chile now see the commission as a laughingstock, and I cannot pretend the commission means anything unless he sacks Barros.”
The abuse commission was established by Francis in 2014. It marked Francis’ first official response to the sexual abuse of children by priests and, when it was announced by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, was immediately met with criticism by sex abuse victims and the organizations that support them.
The commission’s aim is only to find ways to protect children from abuse; it leaves decisions about the course of both prevention and disciplinary action to individual Catholic jurisdictions. Critics called the structure inadequate. Francis set up a new Vatican tribunal in 2015, one focused on the prosecution of bishops who allegedly participated in covering up abuse.
When Spotlight premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year, director Tom McCarthy expressed his doubt that the Catholic Church would take any meaningful action to stop sexual abuse within its ranks. “I remain after making this movie pessimistic toward change within the Catholic Church,” he said. “I was raised Catholic. My family is very Catholic. I think I understand it to some extent. But words are one things and actions are another. I have high hopes for Pope Francis but I think what actually changes remains to be seen so I guess we just have to wait.”