Lesson Plans Based on Movies & Film Clips!                                         

Terms of Use   



Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Additional Assignments

Other Sections:
      Links to the Internet
      CCSS Anchor Standards
      Selected Awards & Cast

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

Child Abuse

See the Subject Matter Discussion Questions # 7 above..

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
(TeachWithMovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner"
and  uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical


(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.
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.

See also Discussion Questions which Explore Ethical Issues Raised by Any Film.

Additional Assignments

See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.


Links to the Internet:

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.

Spread the GOOD NEWS about


© by TeachWithMovies.com, Inc. All rights reserved. Note that unless otherwise indicated any quotations attributed to a source, photographs, illustrations, maps, diagrams or paintings were copied from public domain sources or are included based upon the "fair use" doctrine. No claim to copyright is made as to those items. DVD or VHS covers are in the public domain. TeachWithMovies.org®, TeachWithMovies.com®, Talking and Playing with Movies™, and the pencil and filmstrip logo are trademarks of TeachWithMovies.com, Inc.

TWM grants free limited licenses to copy TWM curriculum materials only to educators in public or non-profit schools and to parents trying to help educate their children. See TWM's Terms of Use for a full description of the free licenses and limits on the rights of others to copy TWM.