20 October 2016
Spotlight tells the true story of how a newspaper's team of investigative reporters uncovered a massive sex abuse scandal that senior clergy in the Catholic church tried to hide. Photo: Open Road Films
Spotlight tells the true story of how a newspaper's team of investigative reporters uncovered a massive sex abuse scandal that senior clergy in the Catholic church tried to hide. Photo: Open Road Films

Vatican paper lauds Oscar-winning Spotlight for its courage

The Vatican newspaper praised the film Spotlight, which has won this year’s Oscar for best picture.

The film tells the story of how the Boston Globe uncovered a massive scandal of child molestation in the city’s archdiocese.

The Osservatore Romano said the film did not take a hostile position against the church, Reuters reports.

It gives “a voice to the shock and profound pain of the faithful who confront the discovery of this horrible reality”, an opinion piece by columnist Lucetta Scaraffia said.

“It’s by now clear that in the church too many were worried about the image of the institution and not the gravity of the act,” it said.

During his brief acceptance speech Sunday, Spotlight producer Michael Sugar said he hoped the voices of the victims portrayed would “become a choir that would resonate all the way to the Vatican” and called on Pope Francis to protect children.

Scaraffia’s piece called Sugar’s comments “positive”.

He said they showed that “there’s still faith in the institution, there’s trust in a pope who is continuing the clean-up begun by his predecessor while he was still a cardinal”.

A second article, a news roundup of the Oscars, said the film had “the courage to denounce cases that must be condemned without any hesitation”.

Since the Boston Globe’s 2002 expose that showed abusive priests were being moved from one parish to another instead of being defrocked, similar scandals have been discovered around the world, and tens of millions of dollars have been paid in compensation.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, the highest-ranking Vatican official to testify on systemic sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, said Monday he has the full backing of Pope Francis.

Pell, 74, told Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse on Sunday that the church made “enormous mistakes” and “catastrophic” choices by attempting to cover up abuses in the 1970s.

While Pell himself is not accused of sexual abuse, he has twice apologised for the church’s slow response.

“I have the full backing of the pope,” Pell told reporters Monday as he arrived at Rome’s Hotel Quirinale to give evidence in front of former abuse victims who travelled to Italy for the late-night sessions.

In his position as Vatican treasurer, Pell met with the pope for a routine meeting earlier in the day.

He said was aware of rumours and complaints against pedophile clergy when he was a young priest in the 1970s, but that church superiors tended to give priests the benefit of the doubt, something he acknowledged was wrong.

Pell said children were often not believed, abusive priests were shuffled from parish to parish and the church was overreliant on the use of counseling of priests to prevent further abuses.

His testimony was welcomed by former victims, but Pell’s failing memory on specifics angered witnesses in Rome and Sydney. He repeatedly said he could not recall specific incidents when he was asked about them.

Special prosecutor Gail Furness quizzed Pell via video link from Sydney on Monday.

There were audible gasps as the cardinal said he was deceived by church leaders who did not inform him about claims against Father Gerald Ridsdale, among others, Reuters said.

Ridsdale, who was repeatedly moved from parish to parish, was later convicted of 138 offenses against 53 victims.

Ridsdale’s nephew, David Ridsdale, was among 15 abuse victims and supporters who travelled to Rome on a crowdfunded trip to see Pell give evidence after he said he was unable to travel to his native Australia because of heart problems.

Last year, Pell denied accusations made at commission hearings that he had tried to bribe a victim to remain quiet, that he ignored another complaint and that he was complicit in the transfer of a pedophile priest.

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