Given that they are generally aimed at a younger demographic, I rarely watch movies these days. However, on the return leg of our trip, one of the films offered by Air Canada was the award-winning Spotlight, important for a few reasons. The winner of two Oscars, the movie
tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world's oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper's tenacious "Spotlight" team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston's religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world.I will engage in no spoilers for the film, but I have to say it resonated with me in two very important areas. The first involves my own history of being subjected to both verbal and physical abuse during my Catholic school days, abuse that began early in Grade One with the strap, progressing to being made to 'stand in the corner,' a common method of public shaming and ostracism in those days, to slaps across the face, all by the third grade. As I recall, my infractions usually involved, as they used to say, 'talking to my neighbour.'
Things got worse in high school, where the same methodology (minus the strap) was employed, but in a much more intensive way. Teachers, both lay and cleric, seemed almost demoniacally driven to wear down any sense of our self-worth, suggesting our worthlessness on a regular basis. The physical abuse escalated to being slammed over our heads with heavy books, more forceful slapping across the face, and outright mockery.
I vividly recall my Grade Eleven physics teacher being especially cruel one particular day. I did not know the answer to a question when called upon, so he asked someone else who, with his textbook open but concealed, read off the answer, at which point the teacher said, "Whoa, slow down, Potter, slow down. Warwick is kind of slow." His bon mot was met with a response of general hilarity throughout the classroom, and absolute humiliation on my part. But I was hardly the only victim. There was a lad in the same class who had a stutter, and I will always remember that same teacher trying to hide his amusement whenever he gave an answer.
I could tell you so many stories, but the above serves to illustrate, I hope, that even though I was never a victim of sexual abuse, what I did experience left a deep scar for many, many years, and an abiding hatred for those who had subjected us to such measures. It was a hatred I only managed to let go of well into my forties.
I often think that those experiences were the genesis of my own extremely strong aversion to abuse of power in its many shapes and forms. They helped make me what I am today, both the good and the bad.
However, beyond my own personal reasons for valuing the movie, there is a much greater lesson to be had from it. It underscores very effectively both the power and the importance of the press, the same press that we find in our time under constant financial barrage. Had it not been for the doggedness of the Boston Globe and its reporters, the scope of both the abuse and the concealment at the highest diocesan levels would never have come to light, and the priest would have continued to be relocated to other parishes, free to carry on their predations. The movie is both an indictment of the tawdriness, cowardice and complicity of the Catholic Church and its many prominent Boston lay supporters, and an extollment, in a very quiet way, of how the profession of journalism can often rise to noble heights.
So yes, I still subscribe to a print newspaper, despite the ever-rising costs, because I know that good work costs money and a great deal of time. Think of all the investigative stories you have read over the years, and the results that ensued. My own paper of choice, The Toronto Star, has a remarkable track record of getting things done, often to the point of affecting both and provincial governments to the point of inspiring remedial legislation in a number of areas.
The battle will never end, as long as we live in such an imperfect world.