The True Story Behind the Film “Spotlight” (2003)
7 March 2016
Spotlight has been critically acclaimed, and has been included in many critics’ Top Ten Films of 2015 lists. The film has received over 100 industry and critics awards and nominations. About the book: here.
The American Film Institute selected Spotlight as one of the Top Ten Films of the year. The film garnered three Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director for McCarthy, and Best Screenplay for McCarthy and Josh Singer. It was nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay for Singer, Best Editing for Tom McArdle and Honorary Robert Altman Award for the cast. Rachel McAdams and the ensemble cast received Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role and Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, respectively.
The New York Film Critics Circle awarded Michael Keaton Best Actor award, while it won the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Ensemble cast at New York Film Critics Online Awards. Spotlight won the Best Film and Best Screenplay from Los Angeles Film Critics Association. It received eight nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Score. It won the Best Cast in a Motion Picture at Satellite Awards and was nominated for six other awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay.
The Spotlight Team
Mark Ruffalo as Michael 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
Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian, attorney
Gene Amoroso as Stephen Kurkjian, Boston Globe general investigative reporter
Jamey Sheridan as Jim Sullivan, an attorney representing the Church
Billy Crudup as Eric MacLeish, an attorney
Maureen Keiller as Eileen McNamara, Boston Globe columnist
Richard Jenkins as Richard Sipe, psychotherapist (telephone voice, uncredited)
Paul Guilfoyle as Peter Conley Len Cariou as Cardinal Bernard Law
Neal Huff as Phil Saviano
Michael Cyril Creighton as Joe Crowley
Laurie Heineman as Judge Constance Sweeney
Cardinal Bernard Law, Boston archbishop at center of church sex-abuse scandal, dies at 86
By Emily Langer, December 20 at 1:55 AM
Cardinal Bernard F. Law, the Boston archbishop who became one of the most influential Catholic leaders in the United States before resigning in 2002 amid revelations that he and other prelates had known for years of rampant child molestation by parish priests, a scandal that has been called the church’s darkest crisis of the modern era, has died at 86.
The Vatican announced in a statement that Cardinal Law died “after a long illness,” without offering further details. He had been recently hospitalized in Rome.
For more than half a century, Cardinal Law dedicated himself to the church, an institution that became his home after his itinerant upbringing as the son of a commercial and military aviator. As he rose from parish priest to Boston archbishop — the steward of one of the most Catholic American cities — he promoted traditional Catholic doctrine …
On matters of theology, he shared John Paul’s doctrinal conservatism. He became one of the pope’s “point men” in the United States, said David Gibson, an authority on the Catholic Church, as John Paul sought to reshape its ranks by identifying like-minded priests and installing them as bishops, archbishops and cardinals.
But controversy engulfed Cardinal Law in the early 2000s, when a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Boston Globe, later dramatized in the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight,” led to revelations that church officials had covered up sexual abuse in the priesthood for decades by shuffling alleged offenders among parishes.
Cardinal Law was never accused of committing sexual abuse, and he denounced the offense as a “terrible evil.” But for many Catholics as well as non-Catholics, he became a symbol of the church’s failure to protect the young from priests who exploited the trust that traditionally accompanies their role.
“While I would hope that it would be understood that I never intended to place a priest in a position where I felt he would be a risk to children”, Cardinal Law said in an apology in November 2002, “the fact of the matter remains that I did assign priests who had committed sexual abuse.”
In the course of legal proceedings arising from the scandal, Cardinal Law was called to give depositions in several civil cases and, in February 2003, appeared before a criminal grand jury considering potential indictments of him and other high-ranking Boston-area prelates.
Later that year, then-Massachusetts attorney general Thomas F. Reilly concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the Boston archdiocese or its leaders. But his office released a report on the matter, declaring that “the mistreatment of children was so massive and so prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable.”
Although not bearing sole responsibility for the wrongdoing, Cardinal Law, the report found, “had direct knowledge of the scope, duration and severity of the crisis experienced by children in the Archdiocese; he participated directly in crucial decisions concerning the assignment of abusive priests, decisions that typically increased the risk to children.”
Among the most notorious offenders in the Boston area was Father John J. Geoghan. Church documents unearthed as the scandal was uncovered showed that Cardinal Law had known of accusations against Geoghan and still permitted the priest to continue his pastoral work. In all, Geoghan would be accused of abusing 150 children, mainly boys, over decades and in numerous parishes.
Another priest, Peter J. Frost, was removed from active ministry in 1992 and later described himself in a letter to Cardinal Law as a “sex addict”, also revealing that one of his victims had committed suicide.
In later correspondence, Cardinal Law told Frost he hoped the priest would one day “return to an appropriate ministry, bringing with [him] the wisdom which emerges from difficult experience.” Frost was ultimately removed from the clerical state.
In a 2002 civil deposition related to the case of Paul R. Shanley, a priest who was later defrocked and then convicted in 2005 of child rape and other charges, Cardinal Law presented himself as a leader who had delegated many personnel matters to his subordinates.
He attributed the shroud of secrecy about abusive priests to concern for victims and their privacy. A victims’ lawyer pressed him on the point, suggesting that “there have been other focuses, have there not, Cardinal Law?”
“There have been and there are,” he replied, according to an account in the Globe.
“One of those has been to avoid scandal in the church?” the lawyer asked.
“That’s correct”, Cardinal Law said.
As reports mounted of coverups in dioceses around the world, some church leaders argued that they had been ignorant of the trauma of sexual abuse and that they had treated offending priests not as criminals, but as sinners deserving of mercy. That defense was insufficient for many victims and other critics, who charged that church officials — exemplified by Cardinal Law — had guarded their ranks at the expense of children.
“Many could read his career as a cautionary tale about the perils of power in the church”, said Gibson, a national reporter for the Religion News Service and author of “The Coming Catholic Church” (2003). “He became a creature of and a victim of the clerical culture. . . . There were bishops right, left and center who did the same things that he did.”
Cardinal Law stepped down as archbishop on Dec. 13, 2002, and later moved to Rome, where he served, until shortly before his 80th birthday, as archpriest of a basilica. …
He urged voters to make abortion, which the Catholic Church opposes, “the critical issue” in elections. Politically well-connected, he spoke as frequently as once a month with George H.W. Bush during his presidency, the Globe reported. …
Cardinal Law’s public response to sexual abuse within the clergy could be traced at least to 1992, when he was confronted by claims that a former Massachusetts priest, James R. Porter, had molested dozens of children in the 1960s. Cardinal Law decried “the tragedy of a priest betraying the sacred trust of priestly service” but described abusive clergy as “the rare exception.”
In 1993, Porter was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison. Three years later, a Waltham, Mass., woman filed the first in what would be a raft of lawsuits against another priest — Geoghan — whom she said had abused her three sons.
Through a lawyer, Cardinal Law admitted that, as archbishop in September 1984, he was advised of accusations that Geoghan had molested seven boys. Geoghan nonetheless was transferred to another parish, where he was permitted to lead altar boys. Reports of abuse continued.
“It is most heartening to know that things have gone well for you and that you are ready to resume your efforts with a renewed zeal and enthusiasm”, Cardinal Law wrote to Geoghan in 1989, as reported by the Globe, after moving the priest to his new parish. Church records showed that Geoghan had been medically cleared for work. …
Cardinal Law later was a chaplain at the Sisters of Mercy of Alma convent in Clinton, Md., and maintained posts on Vatican committees, including the one that nominates bishops.
He assumed his post at the papal basilica of Saint Mary Major in 2004. After John Paul’s death in the next year, Cardinal Law participated in the conclave that selected Joseph Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, as the new pope.
Cardinal Law had no known immediate survivors.
In his apology at the Boston cathedral, he reflected on the priests whom he had known in his youth, and who had made an enduring impact on his life.
“They represented all that was good to me,” said Cardinal Law. “Like countless others, I placed great trust in them.”