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SPOTLIGHT Movie: The Problem

"Don't romanticize it."

20 years ago, the first of the SPOTLIGHT articles, which exposed the Catholic sex abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston, and inspired countless follow-up and similar articles, and the movie by the same name, were published in the Boston Globe.

But what happened NEXT?

Original SPOTLIGHT Article About the Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis

What happened AFTER Spotlight?

In the weeks and months AFTER the truth was first told, and names were first named, in early January, 2002, in the original SPOTLIGHT articles about the Catholic sex abuse crisis in Boston...

  1. Church allowed abuse
    by priest for years
    (2002 January 6)
  2. Geoghan preferred preying
    on poorer children
    (2002 January 7)

And afterwards.

What was it LIKE? How did it FEEL?

To have your favorite priest — and, in my case, one of my favorite PEOPLE — from my childhood named as an abuser.

Too often, completely out of the blue.

How did it AFFECT you?

To go to your (arch)diocese and get help.

Or try to.

And, most importantly, what has CHANGED?


SPOTLIGHT: The Problem

As a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis, I find myself obsessed with those questions.

Especially, and increasingly, the question of what exactly has CHANGED.

I'm filled with the NEED to answer them, and communicate the answers I find. First through my podcast, Sacrificed, and now through every possible channel.

Because of — what's DRIVING me — is the reaction of lay Catholics to the answers I'm uncovering.

Which I find disturbing.

And disturbingly FAMILIAR.

But too many lay Catholics don't seem to want to believe it.

Or, even, to hear it.

Yet, the fact is — and as hard as it may be to believe — things are LITTLE better in the Catholic Church.

And, in many ways, are WORSE.

Innocent children remain at risk.

As are women and men.


P.R. INstead of Change

Yes, Protecting God's Children, or Virtus, or whatever you call it is a thing.

Laypeople are being screened and made aware of their personal responsibility when it comes to identifying and preventing abuse.

And that's unquestionably a GOOD thing.

But that's it.

Everything else that's been proposed and enacted is, too often, and primarily, just P.R.

It hasn't been taken to HEART by the ENTIRETY of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

At best, there's no CONSISTENCY from diocese to diocese.

Survivors may be helped in one diocese, and ignored — or worse — in the next.

That problem was supposed to be fixed by Vos Estis Lux Mundi, Pope Francis' bill of rights for survivors of the Catholic sex abuse crisis. But my own Archdiocese of St. Louis refuses to follow Vos Estis. And Pope Francis has yet to ask them to help me.

Or to even acknowledge my pleas and plight.

And now Vos Estis is on the verge of EXPIRING, in the Spring of 2022...

What's the point of ENACTING a law if you're not going to ENFORCE it? If you're not going to REQUIRE the bishops and archbishops of the Catholic Church, in the United States, at least, to abide by its provisions? If you're going to ignore letters from survivors, hand-delivered by your top lieutenants, alerting you to the problem?

Besides Public Relations.

As for those top lieutenants, and the current crop of bishops and priests, in general, who are leading the Catholic Church, there's the problem that they are willing — STILL — to shun a survivor.

As happened at the Mass of Reparation for the sex abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of St. Louis in September 2018, and was captured in the photograph I use to top off so much of my work.

Archdiocese of St. Louis Mass of Reparation

Shunning that continues to be done by people like Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston and Father Hans Zollner, two of the Vatican's top experts on child protection. Both of whom previously communicated with — and helped — me but are now ghosting me.

I can only assume under orders from above.

Orders that told them to stop helping, and even communicating with, a survivor.

What kind of person can FOLLOW such an order?

And what does the fact that they CAN and WILL follow such an order say about the safety of innocent children, and women and men, in the Catholic Church, today.


And that willingness of Catholic priests and bishops — STILL, despite everything — to follow what is so obviously an immoral order, is THE problem.

Maybe Catholic laypeople can ignore the REALITY of things.

ACT as if things have changed, even when they so clearly haven't.

But I can't.


Because it's not RIGHT.

It's not SAFE.

It CONTINUES to put innocent children, and women and men, at risk.


Twenty years after SPOTLIGHT.

And all of THIS is the result of a fundamental problem.

That I refer to using a deliberately, but I think APPROPRIATELY, provocative term.


Specifically, the FAILURE to do so.

To DeNazify the Catholic Church.

In 2002.

And 2018.

And since.

Instead of being held ACCOUNTABLE, men like My Friend the Cardinal — a man who, in the late 1970s, saw and turned a blind eye to my and our sexual sexploitation and abuse by one of his fellow priests, my abuser Father LeRoy Valentine — were REWARDED.


They established their loyalty to the church by keeping their mouths shut.

And were elevated into the hierarchy, as a result. Where they then gaslighted us in 2002, putting out the local fires and keeping the events, that were triggered by the original SPOTLIGHT reports, from tipping over and affecting the ENTIRE Catholic Church in the United States.

And they are now RUNNING things.

Which is how and why I find myself here, in my car, in November 2021, driving to the Fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in Baltimore. To try to make someone aware of the problems I'm having getting help from my Archdiocese of St. Louis.

And the underlying, fundamental problem with Vos Estis.

And all the other aspects of the response of the Catholic Church to the sex abuse crisis.

What was DONE.

And what was NOT.

And, more generally, the limits of SPOTLIGHT.

20 years after the publication of the first articles.

Desperate — DRIVEN — to prevent it from happening again.

I REFUSE to allow what happened to me to happen to anyone else. I'll be DAMNED if I allow what happened to me to happen to anyone else.

A conviction that's enabled me to push through the thing — the reason — that, I suspect, keeps so many lay Catholics from fully engaging with the crisis. And acknowledging its persistence.

The fear is that doing so will SHAKE YOUR FAITH.

And that of your children.

All I can say is that's not what it's done to mine.

Rather, it's STRENGTHENED it.

It's only drawn me CLOSER to Jesus Christ.

Emboldened me to ACT.

As HE did.

To follow HIS example.

And what can YOU do?

Do as I've done.

Follow the example of Jesus Christ.

Model — live out — His COURAGE.

First, keep reading and listening. Work to understand what's changed.

And what has NOT.


Then, begin to speak up and out. First to your fellow parishoners. Then to your priest. And then to your bishop.

Join the rebel alliance, as it were.

And, by your doing so, you will address the fear that discussing the sex abuse crisis will cause your children to leave.

The fact is, NOT discussing the sex abuse crisis is what will do that.

Your kids WILL find out.

Survivors like me are making SURE of that.

And, to be honest, do you REALLY want your children to model the indifference you are currently showing survivors.

By refusing to speak up and out, at least.

Meaning your only option is to ACT.

To reject and resist Satan.

As your parents and godparents promised they would help you, at your baptism.

To help purify His church of abusers and their enablers.

Of Abuse Profiteers like My Friend the Cardinal.

If Jesus Christ can do what HE did, entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to a certain and KNOWN fate, then you and I and we can do this.