1. Describe how the Pillar of Responsibility was violated by bishops who assigned priests to parishes when they knew that the priests had a history of sexual abuse of parishioners and how the stakeholders were affected by these decisions.
SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS FOR SPOTLIGHT
Go to the Learning Guide for this film.
Additional Discussion Questions
7. [This discussion relates to reasons that children who are sexually abused by religious workers such as priests, ministers, or rabbis often don't report that abuse to their parents. Many of these reasons also apply to abuse by laypersons. This list does not include all of the possible harms suffered by victims of childhood sexual abuse.]
Some reasons why children will be reluctant to report abuse by priests or other respected religious workers are set out below.
- Guilt: Why would a victim of clergy sexual abuse feel guilty about what had happened? Suggested Response: There are several possible reasons. First, the perpetrator will convince the child that the abuse was the child's fault; that somehow the child caused the perpetrator to take the wrongful action, for example, because the child is too pretty or seductive. Second, biologically sexual contact is pleasurable, and often the child will feel sexual pleasure in the abuse. The child will then feel guilty about that. (One of the terrible things about childhood sexual abuse is that it turns what should be a wonderful experience into something sordid and conflicted.) In addition, perpetrators often lead their victims into taking action as part of the abuse either by cooperating or extending the abuse to others. This is not the fault of the victim, but the victim may feel guilt because of it.
- Shame and embarrassment: Why would a child feel shame or embarrassment at having been the victim of sexual abuse by a priest or other respected religious worker? Suggested Response: Revealing sexual abuse involves the discussion of intimate sexual activity. All of the reasons for feeling guilty about the abuse also apply to shame or embarrassment.
- Fear of Disrupting the Family or Community: Why would a child fear that disclosing clergy sexual abuse would disrupt family or community? Suggested Response: The child will know some of the consequences to the priest or religious worker if the child disclosed the abuse. This could result in a change in the child's life and that of his or her family or community. The child may fear these change and may not want to be blamed for them. Perpetrators sometimes play on this fear to secure silence from their victims.
- Becoming Co-opted by the Perpetrator: Why would a child become co-opted by an abusive priest or other respected religious worker? Suggested Response: In situations of sexual abuse, the perpetrator will enlist the child as co-participant in keeping the abuse from others: "it's our little secret." It's very flattering to a child to be a co-participant with a priest or minister in taking some action. Co-option of the victim also occurs when the perpetrator leads the child to participate in the acts of abuse or in assisting the perpetrator in abusing others. This is compounded by guilt, shame, and embarrassment.
- Fear of Disbelief: Do you think that child-victims of sexual abuse by a priest or other respected religious worker might feel that they would not be believed? Why is that? Suggested Response: The priest or religious worker is often respected by the child's family and the community. The child will think that other adults will believe him rather than a mere child. In addition, the child will be vaguely aware that believing the child will require parents and religious officials to take unpleasant actions, change their perceptions of the abuser, and admit that their initial evaluations of the abuser were wrong. The child may think that this will be difficult for the adults and, not wanting to go to the trouble, the adults will choose not to believe the child.
8. What reasons would a bishop have to cover up the actions of abusive religious workers and move them from one church to another where they would have access to more children? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. However, the most likely candidates are: 1) desiring to protect the church from bad publicity; in other words, loyalty to the church as an institution was more important to them than their obligations to the children and families that attended church activities; and 2) loyalty to their fellow religious workers, even the ones who were serial sexual predators.
9. Before the Globe Spotlight series, there had been intermittent scandals all over the U.S. about clergymen sexually abusing people in their congregations. What made the Spotlight series different? Suggested Response: The usual clergy sex abuse cases were assigned to beat reporters who did not have the time or resources to go deep into the story and look for hidden institutional problems in the religious organizations involved. The Spotlight team had the time and resources to go deeply into the story.
10. Many people knew about the abusive priests before the reporters at the Globe Spotlight team started to investigate the institutional role of the Church in the scandal. This includes the parishioners from functional families who would not send their kids on overnight trips with certain priests. Why did they not act to stop the Church from allowing priests to abuse the children of others? Suggested Response: There is no one correct response. The decision by each person was a mixture of motives and some of the reasons would not apply to some of the actors. The reasons for doing nothing included: (1) they do not have hard proof; (2) as Josh Stone, the Scriptwriter said, "There were a lot of people looking the other way because [they thought] the Church is a 'good' institution and why would you take down the Church?"; (3) feeling powerless against the Church, particularly in Boston, a city in which the Church was immensely powerful, (4) especially with respect to the attorneys, ethical obligations to keep their clients' confidences; (5) the normalcy bias; (6) motivated blindness; and (7) simple self-interest in not wanting to get the Church angry at them, such as the family that delayed reporting abuse of two younger children because an older child had a scholarship to a Catholic high school and they were afraid to put that in jeopardy).
11. Give other examples of situations you may have heard or read about in which organizations have acted in ways that betrayed their fundamental principles or in which they or their officers have committed crimes? Suggested Response: The response will necessarily change with the times. One that pops up every now and then is when a charity or non-profit organization uses donations made to it, not to help people, but to provide expensive offices and lavish expense accounts for their executives.
12. There are a number of instances in American history in which groups of people who caused serious injury to many people were not prosecuted for their crimes. These groups include: (a) tobacco company executives who knowingly addicted millions to cigarettes and other tobacco products when they knew that use of tobacco causes cancer and heart disease; they even committed perjury when they testified to the Congress and denied any knowledge of a link between smoking and disease (see Learning Guide to The Insider); and (b) Wall Street, banking industry, and rating company executives who lied about the condition of the mortgages that were repackaged and sold to investors (see Learning Guide to The Big Short expected to be published in the Summer of 2016). The Catholic bishops who suppressed evidence of sexual abuse by priests and were thus accessories to their crimes also, with one or two exceptions, were not prosecuted by law enforcement. Why does this happen? Suggested Response: Each situation is unique. The bishops generally were not prosecuted because of the political power of the Catholic Church, because there was often little direct evidence of their involvement, and due to the fact that by the time their actions were discovered, the statute of limitations for any crimes they had committed had expired. Teachers should note that in some states statutes of limitations were extended and that in each of these examples, although it doesn't always happen, the organizations that profited from the unpunished wrongful behavior by their executives were sued in the civil courts and billions of dollars in judgments or settlements were paid. However each of the organizations were extremely wealthy and could well afford to make the payments.
See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.
Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions
See the Subject Matter Discussion Questions # 7 above..
(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)
See general discussion question #1, in the Guide.
See also Discussion Questions which Explore Ethical Issues Raised by Any Film.
See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.
Links to the Internet:
Original Boston Globe Stories
- Church allowed abuse by priest for years by John Rezendes, Boston Globe 1/6/2002;
- A list of 43 Articles in the series with links;
- Ex-priest jailed in abuse scandal has been set free by Travis Andersen and John R. Ellement, 10/2/2015;
- Priest says he, too, molested boys
by Sacha Pfeiffer and Steve Kurkjian, 1/26/2002 (about Pfeiffer's interview with Rev. Ronald H. Paquin);
U.S. Victim Advocacy Organizations
- SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests;
- Voice of the Faithful;
- Catholic Whistleblowers;
- Bishop Accountability.org;
- Voice of the Faithful;
Response of Catholic Church
- Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People issued by the United States Council of Catholic Archbishops;
- Secretariat of Youth Protection United States Council of Catholic Archbishops;
- Former L.A. archbishop disciplined over handling of sex abuse allegations by Michael Martinez, CNN, 2/2/13;
- Papal commission: Bishops must report sex abuse charges from The Crux, 2/15/2016;
- What's the State of the Church's Child Abuse Crisis? by Sarah Childress,m PBS Frontline 2/15/14;
- A church seeks healing -- Pope accepts Law's resignation in Rome by Michael Paulson, Boston Globe, 12/14/2002;
- Catholic archdiocese in Minnesota charged in priest sex abuse by Ben Brumfield, CNN 6/6/15;
- Kick out those who sexually abuse children, U.N. panel tells Vatican by Mariano Castillo and Richard Allen Greene, CNN, 2/5/14;
- The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales; this inquiry is ongoing as of April, 2016;
- Minister And Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, a United Kingdom Organization;
- One In Four professionally supports men and women who have experienced sexual abuse during childhood;
- 'Endemic' Rape and Abuse of Irish Children in CatholicCcare, Inquiry Finds by Henry McDonald, The Guardian, 5/5/2009;
- Confronting sexual abuse in the Jewish community, by Michael Melchior and Manny Waks, Jerusalem Post, 7/7/2015;
- A heroic whistleblower in the long, sad mess of clergy sexual abuse by Margery Eagan, in the Crux, 10/28/15;
- Wikipedia Catholic Church sexual abuse cases;
- Sharon's Rose: The Voice of One Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivor to Another;
- Clergy Sexual Misconduct from Baylor University with stories of women abused by different types of clergy;
- Denomination Thwarts Bankruptcy by Debra Fieguth, Christianity Today, 5/1/2003;
- Abuse Lawsuits Threaten to Bankrupt Canadian Anglican Church on BeliefNet, 7/2/2003;
The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community from the Catholic Church, Congregation of the Clergy, Approved by Pope John Paul II,8/4/2002;
- SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Preists;
- Real Life 'Spotlight' Lawyer Deluged With New Abuse Cases Interview with Michael Garabedian (the laywer shown representing sex abuse victims in the movie) by Robin Young appearing on Here and Now, 3/2/2016;
- Guest Column: Real action on sex abuse crisis is needed By Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, Daily Times, 3/13/16; also featured on Voice of the Faithful Website accessed 4/10/1;6
- Globe reporters tell their 'Spotlight' stories Boston Globe 11/29/14; this is a puff piece -- it has links that are good.
Vatican abuse summit: $2.2 billion and 100,000 victims in U.S. alone by
John L. Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter, 2/8/2012;
- Sex Abuse Cost The U.S. Catholic Church Nearly $3 Billion According To Report By Bishops Conference by
Yasmine Hafiz Huffington Post, 4/4/2014;
- Spotlight Isn't a Thriller. But It Gets the Facts Right by K.M. McFarland, Wired.com 11/12/2015; also discusses how filmmakers used camera angles;
- Article on Spotlight in History vs. Hollywood; this article has excellent information and insights;
- Facts and Statistics on Sexual Abuse National Sex Offender Public Website, U.S. Department of Justice;
- Interview with Original Globe Spotlight Team at On Line News Association Keynote Address 2015;
- Abuse Victim Phil Saviano Interview by Phil O'Reilly;
- The Real Reporters Behind "Spotlight" On Reliving The Facts And Accepting The Fiction by Nicole LaPorte, on Fast Co-Create, 01/07/16;
- Information is Beautiful a site that rates movie accuracy;
- The Silent Majority:
Adult Victims of Sexual Exploitation by Clergy;
- Sexual Abuse Statistics from the National Center for Victims of Violent Crime;
- Precious, Sexual Abuse & Eating Disorders Published on December 28, 2009, by Susan Albers, Psy.D. in Comfort Cravings in Psychology Today;
- Reasons that Children do not Tell from Child Safe of Central Missouri;
- Why Don't Child Sex Abuse Victims Tell by David M. Allen, M.D. in Psychology Today, October 22, 2012;
- Child Sexual Abuse Facts Children's Assessment Center; Houston;
- Prevalence of Individual Adverse Childhood Experiences from the CDC;
- Shepherds' Accountability When The Flock Is Abused by Francis X. Clines, N.Y. Times Opinion, 3/18/2016; on the Voice of the Faithful home page accessed 4/10/16;
- Pennsylvania Charges Ex-Leaders of Catholic Order With Aiding Sexual Predator by Dave Phillips,New York Times, 3/15/16 - in some places the cover-up continues;
- Cardinal's Aide Is Found Guilty in Abuse Case; by Jon Hurdle and Erin Eckholm, New York Times, 6/22/12.
Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Anchor Standards only)
Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.
Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.
Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.
Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.
Selected Awards, Cast and Director:
Selected Awards: 2016 Academy Awards: Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy); 2016 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Ruffalo); Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Rachel McAdams); Best Achievement in Directing
(Tom McCarthy) Best Achievement in Film Editing (Tom McArdle)
Featured Actors: Mark Ruffalo as
Mike Rezendes; Michael Keaton as
Walter 'Robby' Robinson; Rachel McAdams as
Sacha Pfeiffer; Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron
John Slattery as Ben Bradlee, Jr.; Brian d'Arcy James as
Matt Carroll; and
Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian.
Director: Tom McCarthy.
See Links to the Internet section above.
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