A mantra running throughout the movie Spotlight is that Cardinal Law and the Catholic Church "did nothing" when confronted with knowledge of abusive priests.
However, as is frequently the case with Hollywood, the truth is an entirely different matter.
Hollywood vs. the truth
Spotlight ignores the simple fact that years ago, Church officials acted time after time on the advice of trained "expert" psychologists from around the country when dealing with abusive priests. Secular psychologists played a major role in the entire Catholic Church abuse scandal, as these doctors repeatedly insisted to Church leaders that abusive priests were fit to return to ministry after receiving "treatment" under their care.
Indeed, one of the leading psychologists in the country recommended to the Archdiocese of Boston in both 1989 and 1990 that – despite the notorious John Geoghan's two-decade record of abuse – it was both "reasonable and therapeutic" to return Geoghan to active pastoral ministry including work "with children."
And it is not as if the Boston Globe could plead ignorance to the fact that the Church had for years been sending abusive priests to therapy and then returning them to ministry on the advice of prominent and credentialed doctors. As we reported earlier this year, back in 1992 – a full decade before the Globe unleashed its reporters against the Church – the Globe itself was enthusiastically promoting in its pages the psychological treatment of sex offenders, including priests – as "highly effective" and "dramatic."
The Globe knew that the Church's practice of sending abusive priests off to treatment was not just some diabolical attempt to deflect responsibility and cover-up wrongdoing, but a genuine attempt to treat aberrant priests that was based on the best secular scientific advice of the day.
The Globe's feigned outrage
Yet a mere ten years later, in 2002, the Globe acted in mock horror that the Church had employed such treatments. It bludgeoned the Church for doing in 1992 exactly what the Globe itself said it should be doing. The hypocrisy of the Globe is simply off the charts.
And the issue of the Church's use of these psychologists was not a surprise to the Globe when it actually interviewed Cardinal Bernard Law in November 2001, only two months before the Globe's historic coverage:
Reflecting on the most difficult issue of his tenure in Boston, Law said he is pained over the harm caused to Catholic youngsters and their families by clergy sexual misconduct, but that he always tried to prevent such abuse.
"The act is a terrible act, and the consequence is a terrible consequence, and there are a lot of folk who have suffered a great deal of pain and anguish. And that's a source of profound pain and anguish for me and should be for the whole church," he said.
"Any time that I made a decision, it was based upon a judgment that with the treatment that had been afforded and with the ongoing treatment and counseling that would be provided, that this person would not be [a] harm to others."
Law said the current policy, which bars child-abusers from ever having a job that involves contact with children, is good, but that he wished he knew when he started that pedophilia is essentially incurable.
"I think we've come to appreciate and understand that whatever the assessment might be, the nature of some activity is such that it's best that the person not be in a parish assignment," he said.
Not that we're surprised, but the fact that the Church relied on the best psychologists of the day in deciding what to do with abusive priests was completely left out of Spotlight. Instead, the film repeatedly falsely claims that Cardinal Law "did nothing" or "did shit."
But now you know the truth.
[There is even more. See the headlines. See the editorial cartoons. See the photographs.
Check out the most talked-about new book, Sins of the Press: The Untold Story of The Boston Globe's Reporting on Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church (Amazon.com)]