The movie portrayed Boston Catholic identity as a culture of its own. Those within it understood the expected loyalties. Ben was slow to give his blessing to the story. But what the team uncovered defied any loyalties except to the truth.
The truth was that the Catholic Church used emotional, financial and political power to maintain silence. Lawyers got their cut of the hush money and looked the other way. The poor or unlucky were the victims.
The investigative team was the church’s victim, too. Following tips and leads came with a cost. They heard the victims’ stories and felt their desperation. They put on their reporter hats and pressed for details, for the unspeakable words. Their beloved Boston, their church and their friends had dirty big secrets.
Robby’s friendships stretched to the breaking point. Those within his circle allowed the abuse to continue in one way or another. Robby confronted those complicit in this scandal. The time came when he also had to confront his past careless mishandling of a related story. The scene was painful for him and the audience.
The investigation took a toll on Sacha’s relationship with her grandmother. It was not because her grandmother knew anything about the investigation. She didn’t, and that was part of Sacha’s pain.
While attending mass with her grandmother, Sacha was uncomfortable with the priest’s rhetoric and manipulation. That ended her sacred time with her grandmother. Her frustration and anger with the pain she knew her grandmother would experience when the story was released were palpable.
The investigation hit close to home in a different way for Matt when a priests’ treatment home’s address was familiar. Fear marked his frantic run to find the house. Desperate to warn his family and friends, the best he could do was tape a picture of the house with a warning to stay away on his refrigerator.
Mike was an intense reporter, easily obsessed with his job. With this investigation, intensity increased. It consumed him, leaving no time for personal care and he let his relationship with his wife slip away. It was a less intense, inward-focused and anguished Mike who lamented to Sacha another loss — he had tucked away in his back pocket the belief that he’d go back to church someday.
Spotlight’s investigation challenged loyal Boston Catholics. It challenged faith, power and loyalties. The investigation drew a line in the sand for those who let it happen. The headlines pointed a straight line to those who knew. In December 2002, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in disgrace.
“Spotlight,” directed by Tom McCarthy, won over 124 awards, including the 2016 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. The Spotlight team would go on to do nearly 600 articles, earning the journalists the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.