Reporting the Indescribable

There are over 170,000 words in the English language. And the BBC noted in a 2018 article that most people use fewer than 20,000 words. Even with that many adjectives, it is impossible to describe the rampant atrocities and unspeakable horrors that plagued the Catholic Church for decades. There was an indescribable evil that seeped into both the church and the community. Boston fortunately had a spotlight to uncover this darkness.

This writer was born and raised in Massachusetts and is a former member of the Roman Catholic Church. This writer also clearly remembers when the Boston Globe uncovered that many priests were sexually assaulting children. The public responded to this news with anger and disgust. Many people left their faith because of this. This writer was one of those people. The church hid brutal and damaging acts. This is unforgivable. And it would have been unknown without the work of the Spotlight reporters.

The Spotlight team followed many of the same methods Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein used when they investigated the Watergate scandal. It is odd that the Catholic Church scandal and the Watergate scandal were concurrent in some ways.

Woodward and Bernstein broke the news of political fraud in the 1970s. In 2001, Walter “Robby” Robinson, Mike Rezendes, Matt Carroll and Sacha Pfeiffer of the Boston Globe Spotlight team broke the news using the same reporting tools. They did this almost 30 years later. They studied church directories. They personally interviewed victims. And they made repeated connections with people on both sides of the story.

The team never stopped. They were led by Marty Baron. Baron was new to Boston when this story surfaced for the second time. Baron worked with Walter Robinson, who led the Spotlight team. They saw the need to cover this story despite the influence of the church. Many people felt the church was too powerful. And there were examples of morally vacant clergy, lawyers and police hiding reports of pedophile priests. This did not stop the Spotlight team.

Nothing stopped the reporters’ pledge to finding the truth. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 slowed their progress. But it did not stop them. Michael Rezendes said he never saw his wife. And that did not stop him. The reporters met with victims who also suffered with substance abuse. They faced traumatic stories. And they confronted powerful institutions without wavering. The whole team put their careers, and their families, aside to face the truth and expose the terror.

The team grew professionally because of this story. They won a Pulitzer Prize and other honors for their work. They also grew personally. Each of them was changed forever by these events. This includes Matt Carol. He learned how close a treatment center for priests was to his own home.

These events changed history. This reporting rewrote the public opinion of the church. Something such as this happens once in a lifetime. This impact, and the people who made it possible, are captured in the film, “Spotlight.”

This award-winning 2015 film only shows the events leading up to the Boston Globe’s first story about this dark side of the church. That is all it needs to show. This film never hides the details of the trauma. And it is only through such a raw and honest lens that audiences fully learn about these events. Some viewers may be uncomfortable. But at the end of the day, this film gives audiences chances. It opens the story of both the news and the reporters who followed it. This film guides audiences out of the darkness and into a world that is well-informed and well-lit. A world where people can hopefully speak when they are hurt or when they have hurt someone. Spotlight gives a voice to the voiceless.