Betrayal : The Crisis In The Catholic Church : The Findings Of The Investigation That Inspired The Major Motion Picture Spotlight by The Investigative Staff of the Boston Globe
View book: Betrayal : The Crisis In The Catholic Church : The Findings Of The Investigation That Inspired The Major Motion Picture Spotlight
In this revealing piece, the Boston Globe delivers a thorough and extensive examination shedding light on the concealment practices employed by the Catholic Church to safeguard its dark history of sexual misconduct.
The Boston Globe Spotlight Team: Uncovering Corruption & Giving a Voice for 45 Years
When a public official receives a call from someone on the Spotlight team, it usually means they are being investigated for something they thought they could get away with. From the beginning of every project, we are aware that we are challenging powerful, wealthy, and politically-connected individuals, often putting ourselves at risk of legal action. 45 years ago, when the Spotlight team was created, it was a new concept. We selected a small group of dedicated reporters and separated them from the rest of the newsroom, allowing them to focus solely on investigative journalism. If someone had told me then that it would become the longest-running investigative team in America, I would have been skeptical, as even some members of the team and individuals outside of the Boston Globe doubted our longevity.
Being part of the team challenged the notion that reporters are lone wolves, always doing their own thing. Collaborative effort became key. This type of journalism required us to immerse ourselves in the subject for an extended period, sometimes not seeing our names in the Boston Globe for months. Investigative reporting is about shining a spotlight into corners of society that nobody else is looking into, giving a voice to the voiceless and exposing the injustices perpetrated by institutions that were meant to protect people.
In July 2001, we welcomed a new editor, Marty Baron, who asked a simple but poignant question on his very first day: “Why are the personnel records of one priest, John Gagan, sealed by the court?” This inquiry sparked our curiosity, and we embarked on an investigation into the Catholic Church and its handling of abuse allegations. We discovered that the church had compiled directories of all their priests, including those who had been removed from parishes due to molestation complaints. These priests were often listed as being on sick leave, hiding the truth from the public.
When we approached the church with our questions, they not only refused to answer but also expressed no interest in knowing what our questions were. This attitude spoke volumes about the deference that had been afforded to the church for decades, especially in a deeply Catholic city like Boston. The church was accustomed to not being questioned and needing to provide answers. Our investigative reporting aimed to challenge this status quo.
Our work was not without challenges. Those who despised what we were doing closely scrutinized every word we published, hoping to find a flaw to discredit us. However, we took every precaution to ensure the accuracy of our reporting. Each fact was meticulously checked, and we even created a database to track the reassignment of priests over the years. As our investigation deepened, we uncovered a much larger problem within the church. We discovered that the church had been making hush payments to victims to cover up the abuse committed by nearly 100 priests.
Throughout our investigation, we met individuals who had been victimized by the church, some of whom had never spoken out before. The stories we heard were heartbreaking, and it reinforced our determination to bring these injustices to light. On January 6, 2002, we published our first story. Little did we know the impact it would have not only in Boston but across the nation and even globally.
As we continued to report on the Church scandal, we faced the daily challenges of investigative journalism – the drudgery of sifting through documents, painstakingly developing sources, and convincing individuals to share information at great personal risk. We confronted those accused of wrongdoing, giving them an opportunity to respond before their names graced the front page. The sheer volume of stories we wrote during the first year of our investigation was staggering.
Our reporting prompted individuals to question their faith and the role of the church in their lives. Some chose to distance themselves from the institution, while others remained steadfast, hoping to effect change from within. The Catholic Church had to face the consequences of its actions – priests were dismissed, a cardinal lost his job, and thousands of victims found the support they needed to come forward.
Amidst the successes, the most significant takeaway was the prevention of countless abuses. By bringing the issue to light, we deterred potential abusers, sparing thousands of children from the pain suffered by those who had already been victimized.
Undoubtedly, our work demanded immense effort and sacrifice. We dedicated long hours to the investigation, often canceling vacations. This story consumed our lives for a year and a half. However, we were fortunate to have the time and resources to do it right. In the era of instant online news, where entertainment and quick articles dominate, in-depth investigative journalism like ours is essential to maintain a balance in media coverage.
The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team remains an integral force in exposing corruption and holding powerful people accountable. Every sentence, every paragraph we publish is hard-fought, demanding courage to ask tough questions. There must always be a watchdog to ensure transparency and prevent the repetition of past mistakes.