Shining a ‘Spotlight’ on Hollywood duplicity and bias

What the film got wrong about the Church's sex abuse tragedy
Spotlight movie

‘Spotlight’ movie

The following comes from a November 30 Crisis Magazine article by Anne Hendershott:

Portrayed as a villain in Spotlight, the new film describing the clergy abuse scandal, Jack Dunn, the media spokesman for Boston College, and trustee for Boston College High School, has hired a lawyer to demand that the scene portraying him as a cold and callous bureaucrat—caring nothing for victims—be stricken from the film. The scene Dunn wants stricken is the one that portrays him minimizing the harm to seven sexual assault victims at Boston College High School. Dunn claims that the film implies that he was complicit in the cover-up of abusive priests, and has resulted in damage to his reputation and to his family. Telling a reporter for the Boston Globe that he is now “emotionally and physically wrecked” by the false characterization of him in the film, Dunn is demanding that the scene be removed, and the producers admit the scene was a fabrication about him done for dramatic effect.

Dunn is not the only individual who is claiming to be unfairly portrayed in Spotlight. According to the Boston Herald, there are others now who are demanding apologies and cuts in the movie that has damaged their reputations: “Boston College public affairs director Jack Dunn, former Globe reporter Stephen Kurkjian, former Globe publisher, Richard Gilman, and victim lawyer Eric MacLeish all say their actions were misrepresented in a way that casts them in a negative light, apparently in an effort to add drama to the film.”

The truth is that there is very little that is true in Spotlight. Yet much of the media has lauded the film. Some like New York Times contributor, Frank Bruni, have used the film as a way to attack the “privileged status” of all religious institutions. Suggesting that Spotlight illuminates the false claims of a “War on Religion,” Bruni argues that while “It’s fashionable among some conservatives to rail that there’s insufficient respect for religion,” Spotlight demonstrates that it’s “bunk.” Far from being persecuted, Bruni claims that the Church has been coddled, benefiting from the American way of giving religion a free pass and excusing religious institutions not just from taxes but from rules that apply to other organizations.”

Eileen McNamara, the op-ed Globe writer who is mistakenly credited with “breaking” the story of the clergy abuse cover-up in the opening scenes of Spotlight, has demonstrated animus toward the Church for decades now [While Eileen McNamara may have published an op-ed on Geoghan, she was simply drawing upon the investigative work that Kristin Lombardi, a writer for the alternative weekly newspaper, the Boston Phoenix, had published in 2001—a full year before the Globe became involved]. In his recent book, Sins of the Press: The Untold Story of the Boston Globe’s Reporting on Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church, David Pierre documents the “war” on the Church waged by some Globe writers—including McNamara—whose April 2, 2003 column concedes as much. Pierre demonstrates that there has been a “decade-long crusade of animus” toward the Church from the Globe citing the fact that while the Catholic clergy abuse scandal received much attention, the Globe ignored several other instances of horrific abuse in the Boston Public Schools.

The most important lapse in Spotlight though is not surprising because it is a lapse that the Church itself has also failed to address—the fact that the overwhelming number of cases of priestly abuse involved homosexual behavior between priests and post-pubescent boys, most of them teenagers. While the Boston Globe continues today to call it a priestly pedophile scandal, the reality is that other than the Goeghan case, which involved true pedophilia, the majority of the cases involved gay priests who were sexually active with post-pubescent teenage boys, and young seminarians. While such homosexual activities with minors are criminal offenses—and a serious violation of the priestly vows—they are certainly not examples of pedophilia or child molestation. Unfortunately, neither the film nor the Church is willing to acknowledge the role that homosexuality has played in the priestly abuse scandal.

It is likely that Spotlight will win several awards because Hollywood seems to celebrate films that portray the Catholic Church as a source of oppression. Many reviewers are already predicting an Oscar for “Best Picture.” Still, faithful Catholics can take comfort in the fact that this film is about yesterday. The Church has been revitalized as Pope Francis has brought a new appreciation for the gift that is the Church.

Still, such fictionalizing is not harmless and great harm continues to be done through this film to the Church and to her innocent priests, bishops, and faithful laity. While Jack Dunn is demanding that the fabricated scenes involving him be deleted, he says nothing about the false narrative surrounding Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law as a cold calculating monster who bullied the Boston press into silence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps one day as the moral panic surrounding the scandal dissipates, we will begin to shine a spotlight on the real truth and the real villains in this scandal—the gay priests who preyed on teenage boys and young men who trusted them. Catholics should demand no less.



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  1. It will be interesting to see what is done to correct these errors , monetary payouts , film editing , public corrections of the record etc. I always thought that situations like this were vetted by a legal department for just such problems , from my understanding a release is required for portrayals of those still living . From this article “Still, faithful Catholics can take comfort in the fact that this film is about yesterday.” yes, but we are and will continue to do so our “brand” has been damaged . We should bear in mind that this comes from a industry that celebrates and promotes depravity and immoral behavior and makes excuses for illegal behavior that they would not countenance from anyone outside their designated groups…

  2. Correction to my previous post
    “Still, faithful Catholics can take comfort in the fact that this film is about yesterday.” yes, but we are and will continue to have to deal with this for a long time , our “brand” has been damaged.

    • Rick…..I couldn’t agree more. It will take decades, if not longer, for us to emerge from this dark cloud over the American Church.

  3. Michael McDermott says:

    A spotty ‘spotlight’ by our bought and paid for ‘free press’ heavily Targets the Church and Censors Other Homosex Icons, like State Senator Mark “Kiddie Porn King” Leno trying to make Felonies in to Misdemeanors to cover for his Pederast Pals

    San Francisco’s Gay Icon Larry Brinkin Guilty of Felony Child Porn Possession


    SF government again rocked by child porn…

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      The case against HRC founder was thrown out of court. It is pretty clear if one follows that case that it was a case of extortion, not a rape case.

      • Michael McDermott says:

        Woa Nelly – A ‘Moment of Clarity’ has been posted…

        Perhaps the Radical Homosex Trolls who trash this board do have a ‘good’ reason to remain ‘Anonymous’ –

        Fear of Extortion – by the Young Boys they Abuse… Er, Um, Uh, ‘help come of age’. Ahem

        One can only wonder how long the List and Ages of Their Victims – If the Homosex Harpies Here stopped hiding their own identities…

        – while smugly Trashing the Rape Victims of those who were ‘safely abused’ by their own Powerful AbomiNation Protected Insider Political Bundlers / Leaders?

    • Michael McDermott says:

      The Terry Bean ‘HRC” Homosex Rape Case has been alternately spun and covered up – and yet the Facts Remain – as does the Stain on the HRC Gaystapo:

      Oregon remains safe for sexual predators

      – 67-year-old Terry Bean – indicted on charges of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in 2013.

      Willamette Week reported, “The reason for the dismissal was that the alleged victim declined to testify as a witness against Bean in court.”

      According to The Oregonian, “The boy doesn’t want to testify and attempted suicide because he’s traumatized by the prospect of being forced into court.”

      Bean reportedly had agreed…

      • Your Fellow Catholic says:

        The same judge also REJECTED an agreed upon settlement between Bean and the young man, a settlement in which Bean would have given him tens of thousands of dollars. It was rejected, presumably because it was the result of extortion, and the payment was not warranted by the facts of the case.

      • Michael McDermott says:

        Gosh – an ‘anonymous’ Homosex Troll has Explained the Law on Permissible Rape of Boys as if the Troll were Inside the Judge’s Head.

        Does this mean that the ‘Anonymous Homosex Troll’ promoting ‘tolerant’ Rape of Boys is actually the Judge in the case?

        Or is it more lies from someone so Craven as to want to hide their identity even while trashing a Rape Victim brutalized by the Gaystapo – Repeatedly, along with a smear story to keep The Victim Quiet.

        Sounds kind of like other cover ups – only more ‘Anonymous’. Ahem.

  4. Michael McDermott says:

    Follow the MONEY (Donahue of the “Catholic League” got @$500k/year) – and see who and where it leads, which ain’t pretty – considering who and what they are using it for.
    But then what Church ‘Leader’ can get by on less than $500,ooo a year in these economically tough times?
    “The investment game is how the establishment survives.(The Vortex)

    When the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue lashed out at us the week before last, calling “right-wing nut jobs,” understand what’s going on. It’s not personal, and neither, for the record, is this “Vortex.”

    See, there are ideologies at war here, just as in politics — but the stakes here are much higher-…

  5. Anonymous says:

    The Vatican, and the American Bishops, have all PRAISED this film for its portrayal of hard-working journalists getting to the ugly truth.
    If you don’t like the truth of this horrible part of our Church history, work to make sure children are never harmed again – don’t blame the messenger!!

    • Ivy Leegh says:

      Clearly, Anonymous, if you read the article, you would see that the film is NOT a true representation of the facts of the homosexual priest abuse scandal. The film doesn’t make clear that it is a problem caused by homosexual priests, NOT PEDOPHILES. Repeat NOT PEDOPHILES. Pope Emeritus Benedict set the wheels in motion for cleaning out the”filth” from the church so that children are never harmed again.

    • The ugly truth and responsibility still lies at the feet of each bishop in charge of a diocese, not journalists. The Vatican and the bishops have not properly addressed the problem. The homosexual scourge within the Church still exists. This is the reason for hamstringing the hard teachings. There is no mercy being shown when you deliberately ignore a malignant cancer that thrives in darkness. Denying the hard teachings IS denying Christ crucified. A faithful priest wrote, “You will not teach or staunchly uphold the hard teachings when these teachings are condemning your own behavior.”

  6. Steve Phoenix says:

    The film “Spotlight” is an insidious and vicious attack on the Catholic Church, replete with (as Hendershott observes) many deliberate untruths, voiced dramatically by the cast. It was originally set for release Nov. 6th,—at pre-Christmas time, how nice — and the soundbites on the trailer are diabolically deceptive and untrue: here is the trailer on

    I was made aware of Spotlight in July-August due to its monumentally false statements in the pseudo-documentary. Among the soundbites that are tossed out on the trailer and in the movie: “6%? 6% [of the Boston Arch priests were/are abusers}? “ “ A story about degenerate clergy..” “They (Boston Arch) knew, and they let it…

    • Steve Phoenix says:

      The production company, LA-based Anonymous Content, is operated by its chief principal, Steve Golin, who has long been an Obama supporter and contributor, and who decided to take up the screenplay by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer as though a “documentary re-enactment.”

      Unfortunately, the Card. Archbp, Sean O’Malley, being neutered in the matter, declined to defend the Church or the outrageous claims against his predecessor, in October appearing to defend it in the Boston Globe. Vatican Radio lauded the movie (not unsurprisingly these days)and called it “honest”, “compelling.” So who will stand up for the Catholic Church, not denying the actual (and terrible-enough) facts, but setting the record straight and putting the matter in…

      • Steve Phoenix says:

        … putting the matter in factual context, and defending the Church?

        I am sure we can expect a collective “yawn” from our courageous Novus Ordo Church leadership.

  7. Michael McDermott says:

    Indeed Ivy – the Second Cover-Up of the Homosex Nature of the Abuse is doing much better than the first attempt to cover the whole thing – but then the Media is as anxious to trash the Church as it is to hide away the ugly Facts about Homosex Ephebophiles Targeting the Boys of the Church Specifically.

    I once offered to ‘duplicate’ the alleged John-Jay study at a fraction of the cost – by simply having a show of hands of anyone who wanted to see their career destroyed and become an unemployable pariah – just by saying mainstream Homosex Behaviors had Any Connection to the Ephebophile Rape Scandal.

  8. Michael McDermott says:


    The spotlight has to be shone on all this — which is why the recently released movie called “Spotlight” is an absolute must-see. It’s a very well shot, produced, acted movie focusing on the uncovering of the Boston homosexual priest sex abuse scandal, which was the epicenter of the entire scandal back in 2002.

    It follows along the investigative team from the Boston Globe newspaper as they learn bit by bit the sinister, sordid activity in which various senior clergy in the archdiocese of Boston were involved.

    Make no mistake, that same spirit of evil, so omnipresent in institutional Church establishments, has not gone away because of the unearthing of the…

  9. Anne Hendershott, like Bill Donohue, is just another member of “Catholic Inc.”; they both are abject media hounds. And don’t believe her when she says “oh, it’s all in the past now”–that’s exactly what the hierarchy wants you think.

    See for the real facts about the movie Spotlight.

  10. Steve Phoenix says:

    Mr. McDermott, I truly cannot understand your position that “Spotlight” is a “absolute must-see” film: it is a pseudo-documentary which (as Anne Hendershott also observes above) from the get-go is wrong, mistakenly crediting Eileen McNamara of the Boston Globe as uncovering the concealment of the sex abuse crimes; and from that point on, it is a one-sided unfactual smear job of the Catholic Church. There are so many twisted statements and inaccuracies it is impossible to cover them all in 750 characters, but just the false claim prominently made (see also the trailer I noted above) that “6%” of priests are criminal abusers of children is an outrageous lie. I am completely surprised at you, of all people, I understand an attorney,…

    • Steve Phoenix says:

      an attorney, so ingenuously imbibing this swill. You are a much more intelligent man than that.

      • Ann Malley says:

        …folks are conditioned, Steve, to believe that the ‘real’ facts about this movie will be found at CMTV, disregarding all that has come before. It is part of CMTV’s effort to cast themselves as the entity that is only now forming the Resist and Restore movement while pretending others haven’t been aware of facts and resisting all the while. Facts and ongoing resistance to the bad is often steamrolled in this effort, truth be damned.

  11. Here are more comments about the movie from Church Militant. Yes, it’s unsettling and disturbing to those in power. That’s the point:

  12. Anonymous says:

    You people can rant and rave all you want, blaming the press for being “anti-Catholic,” or blaming the abuse on “homosexuals,” but the fact remains that the Roman Catholic Church was SHAMEFUL in allowing children, boys and girls, to be molested, without removing the perpetrators.
    When little children are physically or sexually abused, it’s a crime, a sin, and no wiggling around can get you out of this.

  13. Michael McDermott says:

    Steve – aside from suggesting you perhaps try a bib to catch any stray swill spewing about; my having Re-Posted a contrary viewpoint from Church Militant (with quotation / hyperlink to the entire article) FYI – does not imply ownership

    Having followed much of this unfolding nightmare at the time, I don’t know how well I could handle a second showing, and thus have not seen the picture (still apparently in limited release) Yet. Still reading reviews and making up my mind.

    BTW – Although I went to their schools and passed their exams -(the better to know the opposition) I do Not Act or Advise as an attorney here and claims to the contrary would be misrepresentation.

    I do agree that ‘those who respect the law or enjoy sausage,…

    • Steve Phoenix says:

      All right, I guess I see your viewpoint, MMcD: I respect your often incisive commentary (as contrasted with the “Smash-the-Church”, “Look-how-concerned-I-am-for-the-chiiilllldren, this-will-conceal-my-true-agenda” Anonymous crowd (12/4/2015 7:23pm). But to me “Spotlight” is a massively deceptive smear-job, and those like Anonymous who secretly hate the Church will revel in it (that is why he remains “Anonymous”). You don’t defend what you don’t love.

      • Steve Phoenix says:

        The ultimate purpose of “Spotlight”, the pseudo-documentary, is to criminalize the Catholic Church itself: there is no claim that terrible crimes done by individuals did not occur, and Card Law, as he admitted repeatedly, was utterly ineffective in correcting the crisis. As he also often said, he took the advice of his psychologists and trained professionals that such people could be rehabilitated (the common view in those days). The real agenda is, as is being done currently by an ideologically-driven attorney-general in Minnesota against the Archdiocese of Minn-St Paul, that the Church itself is a criminal organization. That is the goal.

        • Steve, reality is that the church was criminal in the way that it handled the abuse crisis; it thought it was above the law. It did not report abusers to the police, it did not train its priests and other workers how to behave with children; and the list goes on. Other organizations were fully aware of the possibility that leaders might do inappropriate things to young kids and conducted regular training to help minimize occurrences. The church did nothing even after it knew that there was a major problem. They tried to hide the problem and hide behind canon law. We still need a good housecleaning..

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            Bob One, your viewpoint that “the Church is criminal” is decidedly expositive of your true colors. You disregarded all the qualifications I made about the criminal abuse of children, which was done by individuals who (like Paul Shanley) were ingeniously deceptive in their acts. You disregard all the extraordinary measures that each diocese has put into effect in the last decade, such as anonymous complaints to the ombudsman’s office in each diocese. So, it is really to tear down the Church, probably to get women’s priests, as you have already averred elsewhere.

            It is a simple rule: it is easy not to defend what you don’t love. You are in good company these days.

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            Vanity Fair put the true “Spotlight” on one of the 5 most terrible principals of the Boston Arch scandals: Paul Shanley:


            I don’t recommend anyone reading it unless you have a strong heart and have not recently eaten a meal: but what it shows in its painstaking detail are how people like Shanley (as well as true compulsive pedophiles, like John Geoghan and Fall River’s James Porter) were extraordinarily deceptive and cunning in avoiding detection. Add to this that the Catholic Church had been quite successful in the 1950’s-on in “treating” US alcoholism amongst priests with programs like “Guest House” in MN or Servants of the Paraclete in NM. That approach…

          • Steve Phoenix says:

            …. That approach (“treatment programs”, no matter how elaborate) completely failed in this crisis. Yet that is what the psychological experts recommended in those days, as well as better pastoral supervision.

            By the way, Shanley cleverly exploited his role as a “street priest” supposedly helping runaways and street kids, and banked on a false notion of a Vatican II new role for priests (as the VF article explicitly notes). No, I am not “blaming” V2 here: I am observing how another renegade appropriated the opportunity of “change” for his own devices.

        • Catherine says:

          Excellent post, Steve Phoenix!

        • Ivy Leegh says:

          You nailed it Steve! And agreed re “Anonymous” at 7.23pm.

  14. Your Fellow Catholic says:

    The falloff of attendance in countries that have endured priest abusers is not accidental. Those of you who wonder why the pews are emptier than they were 15 years ago and who also think that movies like Spotlight victimize the Church, should ponder long and hard about the relationship between those things. Continuing to try to hide the truth of this scandal by castigating journalists and filmmakers will only make matters worse for the Church, and empty our pews even more.

    • Steve Phoenix says:

      One of the worst abusers, who abused scores of children, was Paul Shanley, who was not a pedophile as Vanity Fair documented, but a cleverly deceptive priest with same-sex attraction. When he got in trouble in Boston, he moved to Palm Springs and ran a bed-and-breakfast for gay men. When he was finally arrested and extradited, he was taking refuge in the Hillcrest district of San Diego. So, in a false claim that anyone is “hiding the truth” and endlessly vivisect the Church, one in fact indicts the larger problem. Well done:

  15. Michael McDermott says:

    BTW – Much as I hate to say it, at least Some of the accusations against Some Priests were just plain Fabricated.

    Such incidents were usually the instigation of Parents or others who wanted money and saw the Church with Deep Pockets and a Scandal / Coverup that made virtually any New Charge Credible.

    The story of the Boy who Cried Wolf cuts both ways – when Real Attacks are Regularly Covered Up, and this becomes known – then all Denials are tarred with the same ‘Cover Up’ Brush, even if nothing actually happened.

  16. Steve Phoenix says:

    You know, I find it very interesting, how some of us trad-oriented (and other) Catholics get painted as “heeeretics, sedesvacaaantists, and apooosstates”, but the true colors come out when something like “Spotlight” happens, and you see many (not all, but a good number thereof) of the proud anonymous crowd swallow their tongues and demonstrate Stockholm Syndrome, right at a time when it is just to correct the record (not deny the facts, Bob One) and put matters in context. And since many wrap themselves in the chiilllldren as human shields (or the poooor, or the immmigrants), why is it they are silent about the American teachers’ unions and the abuse that is much more prevalent in US public schools? (Hint, whisper: “maybe it is all a…

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COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.