A Spotlight on Abuse: Healing the Wounds of the World through Truth, Justice, and Solidarity

Spotlight is not, at its heart, a movie about the Church. It is a movie about people doing their jobs for the sake of honesty and justice. The reporters at the Boston Globe, committed to truth and bringing that truth into the light, are doing the practical work of the Word without knowing it.

The parable of the light under the bushel gets brushed into a children’s song most of the time, but in the gospels, Jesus is clear: the work of God is meant to illuminate the world. When the Church is engaged in secrecy, cover-ups, and darkness, She turns away from Her call to be the light of the world, the city set on a mountain.

Institutional corruption decays trust in the Church and harms the integrity of our shared mission. Pharisaical attitudes prioritizing hierarchy over justice diminish the Body of Christ for the sake of earthly systems. By failing to care for the vulnerable in our community, we fail to recognize the Eucharistic truth of unity and dignity. We need to remember that our work begins at home — in our own communities — with honesty, vulnerability, and transparency.

To embrace the Eucharist fully, we must also embrace justice and mercy. Apologies don’t fade the pain of the victims of abuse or their families, and the rifts within the Church and our communities don’t close by simply acknowledging that they exist. Spotlight reminds us that these wounds are deeper and more common than any of us would ever want to recognize or admit.

It can be easy to shy from the issues of abuse within our own Church, even as new allegations are raised around the world and in our own communities. But by our Baptism and our participation in the Life of Christ in the Eucharist, we are ourselves formed into the tools God puts to use in His Church and in the world. We must do the work to heal these wounds to be able to heal the wounds of the world.

For many Catholics, Spotlight has scenes that ring so true that the theater may start to feel a little claustrophobic. I sat, a little uncomfortable, thinking, “Yes, I know these parties, these schools, these respected benefactors. I know these troubled families, these lonely kids. Could I know these priests, too?” What do we do in the face of these stories? Get more engaged. Go deeper. Live your call and your vocation fully. Make your parish community a place where people are welcomed and safe, and where the individuals that make up the living Body of Christ are as valued as much as the hierarchy of the Church.

Justice is often discussed in terms of “solidarity,” from the Solidarity movement’s struggle for justice in communist Poland to the current rhetoric of American labor unions. The Eucharist, uniting our communities into the Body of Christ through the Body and Blood of Christ, is the pinnacle of solidarity. The consequences of radical solidarity and unity must be reflected in the work we do as a Church.

When we become the Body of Christ, we are offered as the physical reality of the Incarnate Word. Our bodies are intimately united with God, and we are challenged to recognize the inherent dignity of the human body as individuals and in our communities.

With grace, we are able to remember and to help carry the collective burden openly. As the closing of Spotlight reminds us, abuse is not an isolated incident. We are confronting a systemic legacy of secrecy, avoidance, and sin. So much sin. Humans shy from acknowledging sin – our own, that of others, and systemic sin. God doesn’t shy from sinners. God redeems us from the very sins we try so hard to hide from Him, from the world, and from each other. By participating in the sacramental life of the Church we are commissioned continuously to work for justice in our communities.

Brigid Hogan is a communications professional in Washington, D.C., and you can find more from her at Cold Pressed and on Caritas podcast.