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.