The movie Spotlight, as hard as it is to sit through, should be mandatory viewing. That in itself is a horrible thing to say. But it's about time everyone took a long cold look at what evil people can do hidden behind the name, or in this case, the cloak of God. The movie, named after the special unit of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe, is the story of how a story broke.
It's the story no one in Boston (a nearly 50 percent Catholic town) wanted told. The story no one in Boston wanted to believe. But who the hell does? Who wants to believe that 90 priests in Boston alone sexually abused children, children who looked up to them, whose parents revered them and thought of them as their closest link to God. Who wanted to believe that instead of being ousted from the church and helped or jailed, they were just sent to new parishes with a fresh crop of kids? Who wants to believe any of it? Not a Catholic in Boston for a very long time. And who can blame them?
Growing up in an Irish Catholic home, The Church was at the core of everything I knew.
Pictures of saints and of Jesus and Mary were a part of my household décor. Priests were so highly revered we were taught to do this half curtsy half bow called "genuflecting" every time we ran into one. Back in the 50's when I went to grade school, the nuns at the parochial schools were the ones who put the fear of God in you, slamming that ruler down on your hands sharp as a whip. All in a day's work. The priests, though, they were Gandhi and The Queen Mother rolled into one. They came in all shapes and sizes. Some young, some old. Some you could tell liked a drink now and again. Some you never wanted to hear your sins in confession. But they all worked directly for God and had to be treated accordingly.
Faith as strong and vital as blood, has run through most Catholic households for generations. To rock that faith, to tear at its walls in any way, would be like saying to all of those generations, your lives were meaningless. Everything you sacrificed for, everything you held so dear, everything you taught your children, is all a lie.
My grandfather had 12 children and followed the Irish Catholic tradition of giving one back to the church. Sort of a thank you gift for blessing him and my grandmother with an abundance of children. So my youngest aunt became a nun. She worked in a hospital for terminally ill cancer patients doing God's work until she died. She was totally selfless and devoted like so many who committed their lives to doing good work in the name of Jesus. For her sake, and all of their sakes, I take the story personally.
My family was what was called "Lace Curtain Irish" which meant that we were socially prominent and that the priests who were always in attendance at family gatherings were Monsignors, not ordinary parish priests. There were two in particular who were a part of our holiday festivities at my Grandfather's Park Ave apartment. My cousins and I laughed at their high-pitched "girlie" voices and gagged if we caught a whiff of their cologne. As they circulated the parties, neither was ever without a highball.
When I got into my late teens I understood. I would have been amused except for the hypocrisy of the whole thing. That I can see both of these men in my mind, like I saw them just yesterday, is both telling and scary as to the effect they had on me as a child. So many times as children we are told one thing but instinctively we know something deeper and perhaps darker is closer to the truth.
It is the hypocrisy, not the love of Christ, that is at the bottom of all of this. This, this terror, violence and rape. This murder. Yes murder. Sexual abuse is hard to recover from and for a child who has been abused by someone he or she trusts, it is almost impossible. Some, if not many, of them are ghosts walking through life with track marks on their arms.
The hypocrisy of the Catholic Church is a sin in itself. I'm no theologian, but from all I've read, it wasn't Jesus who called for celibacy but the Vatican, and not to keep priests focused on the work of God but to keep their money. No wives, no offspring, no wills.
I'm no psychiatrist, either, but I do know that when something primal and part of our nature is suppressed, it always finds a way to leak out. Usually bent and twisted.
Pope Francis is undeniably the best thing to happen to the Catholic religion in a long time. Good on him for letting the divorcees back into the fold. Good on him for saying he makes no judgment on homosexuality. And three cheers for speaking up about climate change.
But an apology is not enough, Papa Francisco. Criminals must be brought to justice.
So... spotlight on Pope Francis. Spotlight on the criminals hiding in the Vatican. Shine a spotlight on the pederasts walking free around St. Peter's square. For the love of Christ, punish the bastards.
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