I sat amongst my classmates, staring at the projector in utter disbelief, afraid of the tears that sat behind my eyes I thought would surely spill out for everyone to see. I wanted to stand in front of the class, apologize for the reality before them, assure them that this isn’t the way things should be, that there is good out there… somewhere.
It was the last day of my first year studying Journalism. I’d learnt a lot throughout the last several months, and my profs wanted to give us an example of journalism in its purest, raw, investigative form through a couple of solid historical journalism movies.
We’d started with All the President’s Men, a 1976 film depicting two reporters uncovering the details of the scandal that ultimately led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. I remember thinking it was interesting and exciting.
But I wasn’t prepared for the next viewing.
After my prof had told us we would be watching Spotlight, one of my classmates warned me – it would be difficult to watch it as a Catholic. Not entirely acquainted with pop culture and movies at the time, I didn’t know why he had made such a comment.
I quickly understood.
Personal stories of actual men and women who have been wounded so far beyond comprehension and, to make matters worse, have all of it covered up by the same organization that allowed it to happen.
As a Catholic, sitting amongst my peers, I wanted to shrink into a puddle of nothingness.
I swear, this isn’t the Church I know.
I’m sorry, this isn’t fair. None of it.
We’re all broken, but no one deserves what these people went through.
I can’t fathom it. I never knew about this.
I had known the Church had issues of sexual abuse scandals but didn’t know it was this bad.
How could this happen?
How can I not be ashamed of being Catholic when these men have hurt so many?
Sadness, brokenness, devastation flooded through me and I was torn in a million directions as I felt myself mourning the innocence of so many children who were abused, robbed, marred for life. A small part of me wished I hadn’t sat through the film, that I’d gone home early and continued living, blissfully ignorant to the scandals the Church has had on her watch over the decades.
But that would’ve been a disservice to me and everyone else. Half the shock of these situations is the very fact that it was covered up. We aren’t helping anyone by keeping quiet.
The reporters at the Boston Globe did an exemplary job in their occupations, reporting what people deserve to know. After all, the whole point of journalism is to inform. And, frankly, the abuse victims need people to know what happened.
One thing persistently runs through my mind as I read through the articles about Pennsylvania: I can’t believe we’re here again. But, I have been seeing the reactions of faithful Catholics on social media and couldn’t be more grateful they’re reacting. We can’t keep silent. We have the right to be angry and we should be – if we weren’t, that would be greater cause for concern. That’s the only way anything is ever going to change.
As a journalist, I strive to tell the stories that matter. And the whole ordeal really makes me wonder. Although I’m not directly reporting on anything remotely grave as these scandals in my day-to-day work, the integrity of a newsroom is only as strong as its reporters and what they do with the information they’re given. So while Spotlight virtually made my blood run cold, I knew it would’ve been wrong for those reporters to bury their heads in the sand – even if they themselves were Catholic.
Had I been the one to stumble across explicit findings such as those mentioned in Spotlight, I know in my heart of hearts that I’d have a duty to report on what the public deserve to know: members of the Church have epically failed and destroyed the innocence of the most vulnerable.
Now that we, faithful Catholics, know of what’s happened, we have a duty to talk about it, just as any journalist would have the duty to report. We can’t be silent. The answer to this problem will be far from simple.
In the face of adversity, it is always necessary to cling to prayer and fasting. But this time, we need to go a step further. We have to talk about these issues. We must urge our priests and bishops to speak out against the scandals, be reassured that this isn’t also happening in our diocese. Because if it can happen in Pennsylvania, it can happen anywhere.
And chances are, it probably is happening elsewhere.
Speaking about these and other scandals, and allowing a platform for people to come forward is risky. It will likely lead to more discoveries and ugliness from the depths of the evil in the Church. People may well leave the Church in droves, and we’ll have but ourselves to blame.
But staying silent is no longer an option and never should have been. We need to speak about it. In the end, God will be victorious and there is hope. In the meantime, we hurt, we mourn, we cry, we rage, we try to rebuild our trust in God and in the Church. I encourage all to love and care for the good, holy priests that are in all of our lives. I myself have compiled a list of priests who I’ll be writing handwritten notes to because they’re also hurting.
The Church isn’t founded upon feeble humans such as the horrendous men who have broken the trust of thousands of victims. Our foundation is God alone. We don’t know what’s to come, but as long as we remember Him, there is hope.