February 29, 2016

Vatican gives two thumbs-up to Oscar winner ‘Spotlight’

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Producer Nicole Rocklin accepts the Oscar for Best Picture for the film "Spotlight" as she is accompanied by other producers and cast members at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California on February 28, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Producer Nicole Rocklin accepts the Oscar for Best Picture for the film "Spotlight" as she is accompanied by other producers and cast members at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California on February 28, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Just hours after the movie “Spotlight” picked up the best picture prize at the Academy Awards, the Vatican newspaper praised the film for its portrayal of The Boston Globe’s investigation into clerical sex abuse in the U.S.

The Oscar win on Sunday (Feb. 28) was hailed by producer Michael Sugar as amplifying the voice of survivors. “Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith,” he said in his acceptance speech in Los Angeles that was broadcast around the world.

Sugar’s voice apparently reached Rome as well, with a columnist for the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, asserting that the film had a compelling plot and should not be considered “anti-Catholic.”

“It manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities,” wrote journalist Lucetta Scaraffia.

Scaraffia said the movie did not go into detail on what she called the “long and tenacious battle” against clergy abuse by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI — formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — but she noted “one film cannot tell all.”

“The difficulties that Ratzinger met with do not but confirm the film’s theme, which is that too often ecclesiastical institutions have not known how to react with the necessary determination in the face of these crimes,” Scaraffia wrote.


RELATED STORY: Cardinal George Pell admits ‘indefensible’ errors in abuse crisis


Benedict was elected pope in 2005 after the death of Saint John Paul II and he has been credited for taking significant steps — after initialing dismissing the extent of the crisis — to crack down on abusive priests.

Francis was elected in 2013 when Benedict resigned, and he has pushed for further reforms, including initial efforts to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children from predators.

But both popes have also been criticized for not going far enough.

In her column, Scaraffia praised the film for recounting the reality of how, within the Catholic Church, “some are more preoccupied with the image of the institution than of the seriousness of the act.”

Scaraffia also noted Sugar’s acceptance speech, arguing that his reference to the pontiff demonstrated there was still hope in the institution of the church.

“There is trust in a pope who is continuing the cleaning begun by his predecessor,” she wrote.

L’Osservatore Romano’s praise for the movie follows comments of a similar vein by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta, who said earlier this month that all bishops and cardinals should watch the film.

“The movie shows how the instinct — that unfortunately was present in the church — to protect a reputation was completely wrong,” Scicluna told an Italian newspaper.

The Oscar win by “Spotlight” came as Cardinal George Pell, who serves as Pope Francis’ financial adviser, testified to Australia’s royal commission into sex abuse. Pell was questioned on his knowledge of abuse while a clergyman in the country.

(Rosie Scammell covers the Vatican for RNS)

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  • Mary

    Will the Vatican with Pope Francis being the leader now do something other than forming committees, appointing members to a commission or repeating over and over again that bishops and cardinals who allowed this monster to continue will be dealt with. That would be about 95 per cent. I have followed and researched this horror and there has been very little action except rhetoric which does nothing. I have left the Church which breaks my heart that it is not the Church I thought it was all of my life. It was a very important part of my life but I cannot pray with the clergy. It all seems completely empty and cruel.

  • “Vatican gives two thumbs up”

    Similarly, I hear the Mafia
    really liked the Godfather films too!

    But it is just Catholic Spin & Shenanigans.
    The subject of the film is the KINGPIN OF THE BOSTON PRIEST PEDOPHILE NETWORK ; CARDINAL BERNIE LAW – he lives comfortably in his cushy suite down the hall from Pope of double talk at the Vatican!

    Comments about how the film is ‘not Anti-Catholic’ will be forgotten immediately by anyone who watches the film. It is most certainly (and deliciously) Anti-Catholic.

    I was a Catholic for 49 years and every time I hear someone say “Have faith in Christ” I get nauseated. That evil little trick is a masterpiece of repression and psychological foolery. Shame on those of us who resisted confronting the illogic and superstitions of this awful philosophy of life.

  • I have seen this film twice, and it led me to buy the book about it. As a pastor, I felt obliged to see it. It was an amazing film but the story behind it is sickening and left me in tears for the victims. Like one commentator above, when I hear an arm of the Vatican affirm the film, I want to say three words: Cardinal Bernard Law. In my opinion, he should be in jail, not retired at the Vatican. But I also want to encourage Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, don’t walk away from Christ, his salvation, and the life he offers. It is the best way to live and the only way to die. The Church will always be imperfect, but not it’s Lord.

  • Thank you for your thoughts,Mr.Westra,but Biblically informed Christians,particularly Prostestants,don’t even know what…”walking away from Christ,His salvation,and the life He offers”…What are you talking about?? Colossians 3:3-4 makes it clear that Christ IS our life; how does one walk away from his/her life? It would be like walking out of my own skin! I have been/still am a Born-again, Blood-bought, Spirit-filled child / servant of Almighty God for 39 years,so the idea of “walking away “from the life I now live in Christ(39 years now ) is literally a bizarre concept,and frankly I would like to hear your explanation of what you are talking about using Scriptures,if any can be found to bolster that strange idea.I await your reply. Peace In Christ.

  • America’s approach to religion fosters wrong-doing. The Bill of Rights intended to protect religion in stating “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Church is free to lure the faithful while having the full power to break its own rules, cover up mistakes, and forgive perpetrators while condemning the victims. “It would be better a millstone be hung around their necks” gives little solace to those who suffer from church abuses.

    Leaders in the Church can be stopped only by the vigilance of rank and file clergy and membership, who face serious repercussions if their whistles can be heard above the organs. Human nature leaves scandal to be the guiding light—not conscience.

    The day will come when corporations will quote the hands-off policies of the courts toward the church as precedent for all corporate law. Then everyone can wallow in the lawless earthly realm of no consequences.

  • John

    May our Lord Jesus Christ be exalted every moment !

    I cannot see pastor Westra’s comment at this moment. He is right in saying that Church is imperfect, but its Lord, Jesus Christ is perfect. At this moment I can see three comments. A few moments ago there were five.

    Brother Max !

    If you insult the LORD, He can forgive you. Pay attention not to insult the Holy Spirit of Truth, the Comforter !

    The Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, said:

    “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” ( Matthew 12, 32 )

    The nausea you speak about is caused by men, not by God. By false people.
    By wolves in sheep’s clothing. ( Matthew 7, 15 )

    May the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, be exalted, every moment !

    May our Father in Heaven be exalted, every moment !

    May the Holy Mother of Jesus be exalted ! And all the saints !

  • @John,

    Religion is silly nonsense.

    It acts like a spoiled child because it feels entitled to a level respect it never earned!
    And never let it play with matches!

  • John

    May our Redeemer Jesus Christ be exalted every moment !

    Brother Max,

    There are people to whom life seems to be silly nonsense. To others love seeems to be silly nonsense. To you, religion. Your diagnosis may be right partially, as to the human aspect of religion.

    May our Father in Heaven be exalted, every moment !

    May the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, be exalted every moment !

    May the Saint Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of Jesus be exalted, every moment !

    May all the Saints, God’s friends, be exalted every moment !

  • @John,

    May our Lord Jesus Christ and his realm of Angels
    in all power and glory be Holy His Name in Heavens and Exalt The Lord God of Highest Heavenly Hosts
    to cure AT LEAST ONE CHILD WITH BONE CANCER or
    may Jesus considereth his ‘Lordship’ a sick joke.

    The way religion puffs itself up is ghastly.

  • John

    Blessed be God, our Father in Heaven every moment !

    Brother Max,

    Through His Holy Spirit of Life, God does more than cures a bone cancer child.
    He pulsates life, every moment, into more than 7 billion people. I am one of them. You, too.

    Suffering and death are caused by Satan, through sins. Children inherit their parents’s sins. Satan caused suffering and death even to God’s Son, Jesus.

    Satan’s Lordship is ghastly.

    O, Heavenly Father, deliver us from the Evil One , every moment ! Amen !

    I need God’s protection every moment.

  • John

    Blessed be our Father in Heaven, every moment !

    Brother Max,

    God does more than cures a bone cancer child. Through His Spirit of Life, He pulsates life into more than 7 billion people. You are one of them. I, too.

    Suffering and death are caused by Satan, through sins. Children inherit their parents’ and great-grandparents’ sins. Satan caused suffering and death even to God’s Son.

    Satan’s Lordship is ghastly.

    I need God’s protection every moment.

    O, Heavenly Father, deliver us from the Evil One, every moment ! Amen !

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