Posts Tagged ‘movie’


Monday, February 29th, 2016

On Thanksgiving Day, I went to see this year’s Academy Award winning Picture of the Year, Spotlight. There was absolutely no one else in the auditorium that afternoon for the two o’clock showing, just myself and the images and story before me. What I witnessed that afternoon was one of the most fair and factual accountings of the tragedy of child abuse perpetrated by priests and others in the employ of the Church. It was also saddening and sickening, but well done. While the leadership of the Church in Boston and decisions made were the central focus of the film, it also acknowledged complicity by law enforcement, the legal profession and even the Boston Globe itself, albeit bit players in the overall tragedy. The editor of the Globe says both succinctly and correctly that “it takes a village to abuse a child.”

Briefly, the movie recounts how the “I-team” or investigative team is tasked with checking and tracking how the Archdiocese of Boston handled priests credibly accused of having abused children. If memory serves me correctly, four of the five team members were Catholic though some nominally. None embraced the project as an opportunity to embarrass the Church of their baptism. Simply, the deeper they delved, the more sickened they became with what they found. The end of the film, the day of the expose, ended not in jubilation among the five but a combined sense of relief that their work product was finally out there and a gut-wrenching sadness of what they found and its devastating effects and consequences on the victims.

Has the Church learned anything from the experience of the last twenty years? My answer would be “yes” and “no”. There should be no question that we have put in place at great expense protocols to protect children and vulnerable adults. Just ask any adult parent volunteer at their children’s parochial school or Christian formation program about the screening they were put through. In this diocese, safe environment procedures have added about 1.5 million dollars to the annual budget. It is money well spent, if it works.

Do bishops continue to shield and hide predatory priests and assign them knowing of their predilection? I doubt the assignment part. There is, however, a sort of demilitarized zone which is problematic. It occurs primarily when an allegation is made which is unable to be substantiated by the independent and mostly lay Abuse Review Committee. Some allegations, albeit very few, turn out not to be true. Those hurt the cause of every child, now an adult ever abused who wish that no one experience the life-changing trauma that was theirs. “Cannot be substantiated” does not sit well with this bishop and this is an area in my judgment still to be plumbed in how we handle allegations.

I also believe that too many seminarians, who are dismissed from seminaries, sometimes when they exhibit a certain predilection for adolescents over peers, are able to be admitted and picked up by other places. There is a mandate from the Holy See on this but I personally know from experience it is often more honored in the breach than the observance. Perhaps it is one more example of creeping “unable to be substantiated”. The four seminaries we use in this diocese would have no part of this I am sure.

I left the theatre on Thanksgiving afternoon giving thanks for a movie which laid bare the awful truths of the past and I was happy no one else was present in the auditorium to see me cry at times. For me, SPOTLIGHT may end up being the best picture of the decade.



Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

Actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. Photo found via Google Image search.

Over the Thanksgiving break I had an opportunity to view the new Stephen Spielberg movie entitled LINCOLN. I recommend the movie highly and consider it one of the best films I have seen in my lifetime. However, that is not the point which I wish to address in this brief blog. The entire movie is about the effort of the 16th President of the United States to rid this new nation of slavery by gaining passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution during the final days of the Civil War. Lincoln’s hatred of slavery was so visceral that he sent our youngest to war over it and to ultimately unite a nation. He understood slavery as an intrinsic evil, never permissible and against God’s law.

In our society, the notion that anything is intrinsically evil is growing more and more foreign with each generation. In our Catholic tradition, we hold that aborting a child in a mother’s womb is intrinsically evil, although in classic moral theology it even admits of one exception (the case of an ectopic pregnancy). One would think that killing or murder would be an intrinsic evil, yet one may defend oneself against an aggressor attempting to take a life and there is also the matter of the “just war theory.” In the Catholic moral tradition, “things” are not intrinsically evil but actions are.

President Lincoln understood long before others that a successful outcome of the civil war and the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy would not wipe slavery from the face of these United States at that time. Rather, it would take a law which, if enacted, would be extremely divisive but ultimately would be accepted, implemented and obeyed. Sensing victory over the Confederate army to be near, he had to wage a different kind of “war” with politicians, some even of his own party but mostly with the opposition to gain the two-thirds vote to send a constitutional amendment to the states for ratification. Bold, courageous, insightful, the sixteenth President of the United States worked to secure those votes because he knew in his gut that slavery was wrong. Indeed, his leadership on the war and the issue of slavery ultimately cost him his life that night in Ford’s Theatre at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. The amazing thing about the movie LINCOLN is that there is little that is unknown to the viewer at the beginning of the film but one remains glued to one’s theatre seat watching the morality play unfold.

In our national debate surrounding life, be it abortion, euthanasia or the death penalty, the education of the citizenry is paramount. Lincoln made his case with considerable patience for those who did not agree, considerable cunning in the search for the few additional votes he needed, and the fundamental belief that America by the very nature of its founding documents could not abide the intrinsic evil of slavery. In our history as we know, it took more than a constitutional amendment to outlaw slavery, it took a reversal of a subsequent Supreme Court decision, and one might argue the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s to bring us to where we are today as a nation on this issue. Where is the Lincoln of today?

Treat yourself to a superbly written and acted movie.