Film puts spotlight on paedophile priests

VENICE • Spotlight, starring Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo as reporters working on the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of paedophile Roman Catholic priests, deals with just a fraction of sexual predation in the Church, its director says.

Reports of sexual misconduct by the late British entertainer Jimmy Savile and other high-profile cases indicate the global scope of the problem, and of failures to deal with it, Thomas McCarthy said before his film's screening on Thursday at the Venice Film Festival.

"These moments where we know people have done things wrong and, as a society, we don't stand up to them, it takes years and years and years and the question is why? Why does it take so long?," he said in an interview on Wednesday.

The Globe's Spotlight team exposed the attacks over decades by priests in the Boston archdiocese who molested boys and girls. But instead of being reported to the police, they were counselled and moved to a different parish. The expose led to the resignation of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law in 2002.

The film focuses on how the Globe's team tracked down and confronted some of the offending priests. They interviewed victims who were still distraught decades later and established that the Church had a policy of paying victims to remain silent.

McCarthy said that despite making some concessions to the legal authorities by eventually turning over church records, he doubts that the Church has fundamentally reformed.

"There are still cases in the Church, right? The new Pope (Francis) just appointed a tribunal with Cardinal (Sean Patrick) O'Malley out of Boston to oversee these cases, but then Snap (a victims' group) and all these different organisations are saying it's not enough, you've appointed an in-house tribunal, we are not going to get justice from that," he said.

Ruffalo said he hopes the film would help build pressure on the Church to undertake further reforms. "Many people left the Catholic faith because of a lot of this and it suffered, but I feel like maybe now we can have a discussion with the Pope that's in... and maybe it could start doing some reparations to the credibility of an institution that has meant a lot to people over the centuries."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Film puts spotlight on paedophile priests'. Print Edition | Subscribe