Spotlight is a movie based on true story where the Boston Globe investigated Catholic Church priest abuse starting in 2002. This Hollywood version is very close to what happened in real life. Spotlight is a 4 person investigative team that keeps their work confidential. A column by Eileen MacNemara led to the original investigation. They didn’t find anything. Enter the new guy in charge. As an outsider, Baron doesn’t think they’ve done a thorough job investigating the case so he urges Spotlight to take a look. Sometimes when you’re inside a story, it’s hard to see the big picture.
The team started by talking to lawyers but they had to be more discreet than usual. They pulled clips from old files to help break the case. Baron wants to sue the Catholic Church but the only problem is that 53% of the Boston Globe subscriber base is Catholic. So Baron goes and meets face to face with Cardinal. There were 80 plaintiffs and allegations against Cardinal Law. Spotlight’s first interaction was with a lawyer who didn’t want to talk so they used the influence of the paper to get to some of the victims. Spotlight found SNAP, a victim support group and talked to their leader, Salviano about past abuse from priest. He said: “you just go along with it because he made you feel special, but he robbed me of my innocence and faith”. Silviano said he sent a box of stuff 5 years prior and the Globe didn’t do anything with it.
As the investigation continued, the team found another priest in old clips from own archives. The story comes from their own history. The individual stories are nothing compared to the whole. They discover that the Church settled the old cases and then they start to look for a pattern. They start by having a journalist follow lawyer around the street to try to talk to him. The lawyer gets interested when Spotlight is digging so the journalist starts by asking permission to take notes and promising not using name unless the victim agrees with it. Then, they interview victims to get their stories and one of the victims seemed surprised that the journalist really wants to hear the story while another victims lives spiraled down after that (drugs/alcohol/suicide). To find the pattern, Spotlight quietly looked through old priest directories because they figured that probably about 6% of all priests were in on this, their philosophy being :”if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”.
The Globe editor wanted the focus to be on the institution (Church) rather than the individual to make a difference, he wanted to go after the system. The team got one of the priests to admit the abuse (Packwin) but before anything could become concrete, 9/11 happened and everything was put on hold. They went back to it when the timing was right and they got public records that proved Law knew about the priests. In the end, there were 600 stories published in the Boston Globe where 294 priests and brothers were accused and there were 1,000 survivors. Spotlight’s key to bringing this to light was eloquently stated: “the trick is, to keep asking”.