Catholic abuse movie wins Best Picture Oscar award
Hollywood star Mark Ruffalo, above left, star of Spotlight, was among protesters outside Los Angeles’ Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels shortly before it was announced that the movie had won the big prize at the 88th Academy Awards last night.
According to this report, Ruffalo tweeted:
Standing with the survivors of priest sexual abuse.
Together with the movie’s co-writer Josh Singer he stood in solidarity with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) demanding the public release of the names of paedophile members of the clergy.
Nominated for a total of six Oscars, Spotlight was also the big winner on Saturday at the Independent Spirit Awards.
The Open Road-distributed and Tom McCarthy-directed drama about the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team’s exposes of rampant sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, and the subsequent cover-ups, was chosen as one of the top 10 films of 2015 by AFI.
Onstage at the Oscar ceremony, Spotlight producer Michael Sugar said:
This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican.
Pope Francis, it is time to protect the children and restore the faith.
Meanwhile, it is reported here that, hours before the Oscar win was announced, one of the most senior officials within the Vatican hierarchy, Cardinal George Pell of Australia, above, admitted under oath for the first time that he had heard that an Australian Catholic schoolteacher may have engaged in “paedophilia activity”, but he never followed up on the “one or two fleeting references” he heard about the “misbehaviour”.
The teacher in question, Edward Dowlan, a Christian Brother, was later convicted of abusing 20 boys and is serving a six-year prison sentence.
Pell, in an appearance by videolink before the Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to sexual child abuse, sounded contrite as he testified, often using short sentences. He called the Church’s response to clerical sexual abuse of children by one serial offender, Gerald Ridsdale, “a catastrophe” for his victims but also for the Church.
I’m not here to defend the indefensible. The Church has made enormous mistakes, but is working to remedy them.
The testimony via videolink was arranged by the Royal Commission after Pell had said he could not travel to Australia because of a heart condition.
A Vatican official acknowledged that Pell had probably not foreseen that he would still have to testify in a public forum even though he remained in Rome: a banqueting hall in the Hotel Quirinale that included nearly 70 journalists, and 15 survivors of sexual abuse who made the journey from Australia.
The decision by Pell not to go to Australia and face intense media scrutiny there had an unintended consequence. Uncomfortable questions about criminal sexual acts committed by Catholic priests were asked being asked on the Pope’s own doorstep.
Evidence about priests kissing boys, swimming with them naked, and taking showers with them, had never before been presented in this way in the Vatican.
Robert Mickens, a veteran Vatican journalist, said:
This is in the Pope’s yard right now, and that has never happened. Historically, yes, this is something really big.
It was clear Pell was going to be very sullen; he had short answers and sounded repentant and ‘Gosh, I didn’t understand’. But there was an admission, finally, that he heard the rumours. Before, he was saying this was all brand new to him.
Mickens said he believed that Pell was purposely:
Playing the kind of almost sorry old man who was beaten up a little bit. That is a difficult act for George. Whether the commission buys it or not … certainly here in Rome he looks like the object of a witch hunt.
Stephanie Kirchgaessner, reporting for the Guardian, wrote:
The big question now is not only how Pell will fare under the next few days of questioning, but whether renewed focus on clerical abuse and the Church’s handling of the problem will also receive more attention from the Pope.