A new Fall film shines a Hollywood “Spotlight” on the Boston Globe’s Catholic abuse story. In his new book, Sins of the Press, David F. Pierre shines a floodlight.
This November, Hollywood will be trumpeting a movie called Spotlight, starring Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo, which attempts to dramatize the Boston Globe’s 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting of the Catholic sex abuse story.
Imagine the 1976 film All the President’s Men, except in Spotlight, the Washington Post is replaced by the Boston Globe, and the role of the bad guy is not Richard Nixon but Cardinal Bernard Law.
But like nearly everything from Hollywood, Spotlight looks like it will more resemble The Wizard of Oz than anything fair and accurate.
As I outline in my new book, Sins of the Press: The Untold Story of The Boston Globe’s Reporting on Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church, one cannot imagine a newspaper more bigoted and hypocritical than the Boston Globe to report on the issue of sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
My years of research for the book uncovered one undeniable truth: that the Boston Globe’s reporting in 2002 of the sex abuse story was simply the culmination of a relentless, decades-long attack against the Catholic Church and everything it stands for. By 2002, the Globe already had a long and well-established record of anti-Catholicism stretching back to the mid-1970s, when the Globe first acknowledged that Catholics were complaining about bigoted content in its paper targeting the Church.
When Father Gordon MacRae invited me to contribute a post about my new book, it did not take me long to decide on which one of the countless episodes of the Globe’s anti-Catholicism would be most appropriate to write about for the readers of These Stone Walls.
I am sure Father Gordon remembers the day of his ordination. It is usually an incredibly joyous day – a uniquely special day – not just for the priest himself but for his family as well.
However, such was not the case on Saturday, June 16, 1990, at Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston, when Cardinal Bernard Law and the Archdiocese of Boston welcomed 11 men into the priesthood.
On this day, two gay activist groups and an abortion lobbying group led hundreds of loud and angry demonstrators outside the cathedral to stage a “protest” against Cardinal Law and the Church’s teachings on abortion and sexuality.
What occurred at the demonstration has been thoroughly documented and substantiated. Indeed, protesters outside the ordination:
- threw condoms at priests and their families as they exited the cathedral;
- hurled obscenities and chants at priests and their families;
- attempted to disrupt the Mass inside by blowing whistles and sounding air-horns from the sidewalk;
- shouted “Shame, shame, shame” and “Come out of the closet” as they followed the newly ordained priests and their families to their cars;
- defaced a sidewalk with obscenity;
- ridiculed the Eucharist by placing condoms between Communion wafers; and
- staged a mockery of the Mass featuring women dressed as men, profanity, vulgarity, and simulated sex acts.
By any measure, the “protest” was a gross display of bigotry and an egregious affront to civility.
So how did the Globe report on this abominable assault on Catholics and the clergy? Here is the opening sentence of the paper’s coverage the day following the ordination:
“Hundreds of advocates for homosexuals’ rights, AIDS education and abortion rights staged a colorful, loud – and peaceful – demonstration yesterday outside Holy Cross Cathedral to protest the political stances of Cardinal Bernard Law.”
Would the Globe ever have chosen the word “peaceful” to describe a group of cursing anti-Semites hurling condoms and slurs at rabbis outside a temple and ridiculing their faith? Would the Globe ever have chosen the word “peaceful” to describe a group of cursing homophobes hurling condoms and epithets at gay men outside a gay nightclub? Of course not.
With any other religion or protected group, the Globe would have been screaming “hate crimes.” Its editorial pages would have become apoplectic in its outrage against such attacks.
Yet to the Globe, the bigoted attacks at a Catholic ordination ceremony were simply “colorful, loud, and peaceful.”
In the end, such episodes from the Boston Globe – of which there are many recorded in my book – illustrate that the paper’s reporting about sex abuse in the Catholic Church has never been about impartially chronicling a story and informing the public. Most all its reporting has had absolutely nothing to do with the “protection of children.”
As Father Gordon has so exhaustively illustrated for so many years through his own excruciating ordeal, the Catholic Church is under an immense and overwhelming attack. And part of this attack is the media’s use of the abuse story to browbeat the Catholic Church as ferociously and unrelentingly as it can. The relentlessness of this attack cannot be overstated.
Despite the soaring music and powerful acting, do not expect Spotlight to tell the true story of how the sex abuse story in Boston really transpired. There is much more than meets the eye.
I invite readers to learn a lot more in my new book, Sins of the Press.
Update for the Week