‘Spotlight’ and the church’s response to sexual abuse

Archbishop reflects on new film

By Archbishop Michael Jackels
Witness Publisher

AB JackelsSpotlight is a new movie about the Boston Globe exposé in 2002 on the scandal of clergy sexual abuse.

I haven’t seen the movie. But from the trailer it appears that the movie portrays historical events: the sin and crime of clergy sexual abuse, and the failure to report on or remove an offending cleric (and not just in Boston).

Would I prefer that this not be played out on the silver screen? Sure. The trailer alone is painful to watch. But that pain I am sure doesn’t even come close to what victims, their families, or the Catholic faithful have to suffer from the scandal of clergy sexual abuse.

Since the Boston Globe exposé in 2002, and in large part because of it, society in general and the Catholic Church in particular have learned a lot about knowing how to identify grooming behavior, to report suspicions, to remove offenders, and to create a safe environment.

But the sin and crime of sexual abuse sadly still happens. And while failing to report on or remove an offender is rare in comparison with past practice, it too still happens, and when it does a shadow is cast on the Church’s efforts to restore trust and to provide a safe environment.

And so I suppose the story told by the movie bears repeating until all of us get all of it right.

We are committed to do all that is humanly possible to promote healing, restore trust, and create a safe environment, especially by screening and forming priesthood candidates, a zero tolerance for acting out, and safe environment training for Church employees and volunteers. And if something falls through the cracks in spite of our commitment and efforts, we are resolved to act swiftly and resolutely to make the correction.

Please be a partner in this effort. May God have mercy on us and help us.


This story is provided courtesy of The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.