Movies

Vatican Radio praises movie on Boston Globe coverage of clergy abuse

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, and Brian d'Arcy James in "Spotlight," a new film about The Boston Globe's coverage of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, and Brian d’Arcy James in “Spotlight,” a new film about The Boston Globe’s coverage of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

A new film about The Boston Globe’s coverage of child sexual abuse scandals in the Church 13 years ago has drawn strong praise from the Vatican’s official radio outlet, which described the movie as “honest” and “compelling.”

A Vatican Radio commentator also said the Globe’s reporting, upon which the film is based, helped the Church in the United States “to accept fully the sin, to admit it publicly, and to pay all the consequences.”

Artistic commentary from either Vatican Radio or the official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, is not tantamount to an endorsement of a work by either the pope or the Vatican, spokesmen have insisted over the years. Its appearance in a Vatican media outlet, however, creates at least the impression of approval.

Directed by Thomas McCarthy, the movie takes its title, “Spotlight,” from the name of the investigative unit at the Globe that documented a widespread pattern of abuse and cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston, which eventually led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law in December 2003.

The paper won the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2003 for its reporting.

The Vatican Radio commentary says the new film shows Globe journalists exercising “their most pure vocation” as journalists.

The movie was shown in September at a film festival in the Italian city of Venice, triggering the positive review. Vatican Radio, the official radio service of the Vatican, was started under Pope Pius XI in 1931.

Luca Pellegrini, who frequently comments on art and culture for Vatican Radio, praised “Spotlight” for demonstrating “the inexhaustible and uncontainable force of the truth.” His review was posted in Italian on the Vatican Radio website.

“It was a group of professional journalists of the daily ‘Boston Globe’ that made themselves examples of their most pure vocation,” Pellegrini wrote, “that of finding the facts, verifying sources, and making themselves — for the good of the community and of a city — paladins of the need for justice.”

Pellegrini wrote that through its coverage, the Globe had revealed “the horror which, in part, was already known but for too long kept silent by many, of diffuse pedophilia among Catholic priests of the American diocese, with hundreds of victims on the conscience not only of those who committed the crimes but also those who covered it up.”

Pellegrini wrote that the Catholic Church should not be wary of a film about its past failures.

After “decisions made by popes, Vatican departments, and episcopal conferences” to put the Church on a path of reform, he wrote, “designed for the extirpation of evil always and everywhere,” today there is nothing to fear.

Pellegrini praised the sober feel of the movie, saying “the director never gives in to personal interpretation or falls into the trap of scandal,” and also hailed the “extraordinary performances” delivered by actors Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton.

“Spotlight,” which is generating buzz as a possible Oscar contender, is scheduled for release on Nov. 6.

Pope Francis repeatedly has pledged himself to fighting child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, including the creation of a new papal commission in 2014 intended to advise him on reform measures and a special tribunal to prosecute bishops who looked the other way. That body is led by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, who took over the Boston archdiocese from Law in 2003.

John L. Allen Jr., the editor of Crux, specializes in coverage of the Vatican. More