The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 26, 2023 - 5:22:10

Spotlight on victims

Katie van Schaijik, Mar 01, 2016

We watched Spotlight last night. 

It's an honest movie. The reporters aren't glamorized, for instance. They're not presented as slick or stylish or brilliant or heroic. They're just normal people doing their jobs, somewhat belatedly. 

It was crucial that the movie be uncompromisingly honest, because its main theme is the corrosive evil of systemic moral compromise and mendacity.

It's hard to watch it and keep faith in the Church. Afterwards, I found myself inwardly swamped by waves of hatred for a lot of people I used to like and admire—Catholic leaders and "defenders of the faith"—who habitually neglect victims and protect themselves and each other from the consequences of wrongdoing, in the name of "avoiding scandal" or "protecting a work of God," even "mercy." I know a lot of this type. They are legion.

I have in mind not only the hideous crime of sexual abuse of children, but lesser wrongs too—all manner of injustice. It's perpetrated or tolerated by those in power, because opposing it costs too much, in terms of time or money or reputation. Instead, its victims are pressed to "forgive" and "move on." If they don't, they are punished with opprobrium or marginalization or worse. They are treated as enemies.

The Pope sees this too, I'm convinced, which is why he constantly decries careerism and clericalism and other evils afflicting the Church. It's why he keeps directing our moral attention to the poor, the suffering, the wounded, the unprotected.

I keep thinking of the climatic scene in The Winslow Boy, when Sir Robert Morton reminds the assembled Lords of that fundamental demand of Christian justice: "You shall not stand with the powerful against the weak!"

The other day a Facebook friend wrote a tribute to his recently-deceased mother. She had lost her faith before her children were born, but she had never lost her commitment to "the least of these." One of her sayings was: "The most important person in any setting is the one with least power."

It's almost the gospel in a nutshell, isn't it?