How is Catholic Church more transparent since ‘Spotlight’ movie?

Background: My wife and I are both Methodist Christians. I am friendly and respectful of Catholicism and am a regular listener of Catholic radio and like listening to EWTN. I’ve become a stronger Christian from it, I believe. I even donate money to the station I listen to.

If there is a more appropriate place to move this post, please let me know and I’ll move it.

My wife, on the other hand, is not very friendly or open to Catholicism. She has noted my interest in Catholicism and (I suspect) tries to plant doubt. For example, we like to watch movies and take turns picking family movies to watch. She recently picked ‘Spotlight’ about the child abuse scandal in Boston around the turn of century. She also picked ‘Philomena’ once. Both movies paint Catholic Church leaders in a bad light. I responded by telling her that the Catholic Church is more open and accountable than it was in the past, but I don’t have specific details to give to prove it. My wife believes things haven’t changed much, as evidenced by a prominent local Catholic pastor currently being under investigation for child abuse. I told her they turned it over to local police detectives to investigate it instead of covering it up, which is a sign of transparency.

Question: Can anyone help provide info that shows how Catholic Church has become more accountable since the scandals?

There has been some doctrinal work by the College or Cardinals, back in the early 2000s and the recent Synod held by Pope Francis after the most recent scandals. Such a horrific situation, extremely saddening.

We can’t answer this with facts or stats that the Church is taking measures to correct this. The reason is, temptation always exists and everyone sins, we can’t expect something to be perfect that simply isn’t.

What we can do is trust in Jesus that the Church will prevail, in that the Truth and the sanctity of the sacraments will remain despite these horrendous misuses of position and power.

Let’s turn to the words of Jesus in the Gospels:

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” - Matthew 16:18

Jesus is telling us, despite how horrible the situation may become, no matter what, we have to trust that evil will never overtake the Church. Evil will certainly enter it as it has in these scandals, but the Truth will always remain to the end of times.

The question you shouldn’t be trying to prove for your wife is finding stats to show the Church is accountable. Rather, you should be showing that the Catholic Church is the one and only Church founded by Jesus Himself by setting Peter as the rock of the Church. By trusting in the very words of Jesus, we can trust that in the end, the Church will be healed and sanctified through the Sacraments and Truth that will never leave it.

God Bless,


All I know is nowadays if there’s any credible accusation of abuse, the priest is immediately pulled from his parish, sent away somewhere, an announcement appears on the Diocesan website, and often the local news media covers the story. I have seen this happen at least 5-6 times in 3 different dioceses in the last few years. You’re not going to have a Geoghan getting transferred from parish to parish to parish any more, because of the huge liability risk.

I have no idea if telling your wife that is going to convince her, though. Catholics just have to accept that some people don’t like the Catholic Church and will always hold the actions of some people who committed bad sins and/or used poor judgment against the vast majority of those who are genuinely trying to do good.


There are well-publicised reports out there, describing what happened to the victims in graphic detail, who was involved in covering it up, and how it was covered up. Maybe it’s only the tip of the iceberg. What I understand happened is the Church was infiltrated by predators who, over time, developed networks that knew how to game the system. We, as the Church, have no excuse not to acknowledge the problem, understand the nature and extent of it, and do whatever it takes to prevent it happening again.
I know that, in my diocese, predators have neither the means or opportunity to abuse children.

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Firstly, it’s okay to admit that there’s still ways in which the Church is struggling. Things aren’t perfect, and there’s no magic bullet to fix it. It would be crazy to say otherwise. However, here are some ways that the Church has reformed in regards to sex abuse:

After the revelations in 2002, the American Church set new standards on how to report cases of abuse. When an allegation is reported, info is immediately handed over to the proper secular authorities and the cleric in question is put on pastoral leave until the investigation is complete. This is much different from how things used to be handled, when allegations were kept secret and priests were transferred or went on leave without a reason given to the public.

Very recently, Pope Francis established guidelines on the process for disciplining bishops who have mishandled abuse allegations. There were no such guidelines before. This was prompted particularly by McCarrick’s case.

Many dioceses and religious orders have made public their lists of allegations against priests (many deceased). These were once secret, often because the priests were deceased, so there is no way to conduct a criminal investigation. The lists are being made public for the sake of openness and transparency. Of the dioceses that have not yet done this, many are preparing to publish their lists.

Seminary formation has reformed and there is a much greater emphasis on psychological evaluations to make sure that quality men are going to the seminary. This makes it less likely to have “problem priests” in the future.

There’s probably more that I could list, but this is what came off the top of my head


I tend to think there is a grain of truth to the “supportive networks” thing. The parish I grew up in had the same pastor for probably 20 years when I was growing up. Many priests, at least 10 or 12, passed through that parish under this pastor. I have researched all of those priests on bishop-accountability and on the lists released by the Diocese, and cannot find any sort of pedophilia accusations for any of them. By contrast, there are a couple other parishes in the same diocese that seem to have had a whole group of pedophiles, and in other dioceses it seems to be the same. One can only assume that certain parishes were havens for these guys, while at other parishes the pastor was having none of that.

Very helpful replies Thanks for all who have replied so far.

You’re very welcome! It’s never easy to talk about, especially with someone who is very skeptical of the Church.

Just curious… Do you know if this is a universal policy for all parishes or just the more proactive ones that are doing it on their own?

Each diocese has their own policy. And most of the policies are similar from diocese to diocese. In my diocese, and every other diocese that I know of, the first thing that the guidelines mandate is that the allegation is reported to the police and the priest in question put on administrative leave.

That appears to be exactly what happened to the local pastor in my area. He was put on administrative leave and the investigation was turned over to local police detectives and it was reported on the local TV station. Thanks, CTBcin

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Vaguely, I’m aware of major reforms in reporting, discipline, and access to minors. Much 9f the scandals being brought to light nowadays involve decades old scandals and retired or dead criminals.

I’m not saying it’s entirely resolved, as there are evil men always, and the Church probably could handle these aged cases much better.

I don’t work for any parishes and don’t know the diocesan policy handbook for any diocese.

Given that I have seen the same thing happen now in at least 3 or 4 dioceses I am pretty sure it is now standard procedure for dioceses in USA. From a standpoint of limiting liability, it would be pretty stupid to do anything else.

Well, this was one thing that really stood out to me in both the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and the IICSA report into Downside Abbey. The other thing that stood out was a number of incidents involved desecratory acts, which suggests it’s not a case of good priests struggling with celibacy, but of instances of dioceses being infiltrated.

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Thanks. I will assume it is standard procedure, which will bolster my case that more transparency is taking place to combat abuse.

I am not sure that you are going to make much headway with your wife for several reasons.

  1. the issue is explosive and tends to result in immediate reactions - understandable, but not something which lends itself to a non-emotional, factual discussion.

  2. Movies are “edited” from the conception to the finished product. The movie you reference is not a dispassionate, non-emotional discussion of the matter; it is a slanted telling coming after a major outrage over the subject matter. As such, someone who watches it is fairly likely not dispassionate about the subject and the movie is not going to move the viewer towards a dispassionate response.

The Church has been in the past horribly wrong in how it responded to the issues. However, there are two views coming out of the scandal, neither based on truth: a) the number of priests who abused is massive (in fact it is somewhere around 3%), and b) this just doesn’t happen in other groups like it does in the Church (grade and high schools both have predators, have responded in like manner - ducking the issue, moving the teacher, etc; however, there is no similar institution to attack - schools are in small districts in states).

None of that is to excuse, in any way, what happened in the Church. but it makes for a reaction in many as if the church were awash in sexual predators - it is not - and that it somehow “had a corner on the market”. the greatest place of sexual abuse is not within the Church, but is within families - immediate family, relatives, and friends of the family who are abusers. That perspective is not likely to change, as the Church makes national news for months, if not for several years after the incidents, while family sexual abuse might make the local paper when someone is convicted.

Sexual abuse is a horrible tragedy, one which affects the victim for the better part of their life, and has often led to suicide. I make no excuse for the priests and others in the Church who have abused; at the same time, I am more than tired o the sensationalism which has arisen surrounding it. And at the same time I admit that it was the combination of sensationalized news and the law suits by victims which has brought the Church to confront and deal with the issue.

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Yes, all of the blasting of the Church is leaving out the overall social context in which society just couldn’t believe that anybody “respectable” committed child sexual abuse and did not take such complaints seriously. It was also thought that some therapy could cure the abuser and if he were sent away for a while and promised to not do it again, he could have another chance. This happened all through society, not just in the Catholic Church. I am willing to bet that there were child sexual abusers in the Methodist Church as well but because the Methodist Church is not a big centralized target, it will never be the subject of a “Spotlight” movie.

Nevertheless when one says these things, people generally don’t want to hear it and will accuse you of trying to minimize what happened, not being sensitive enough towards victims, or trying to excuse the Church.

I have to hand it, the movie was amazing. Photography like I hadn’t seen in a movie in years.

Hadn’t heard about that one, I’ll be watching it soon.

Pope Francis instituted a “zero tolerance policy”(google if you want) which obligates bishops reporting to the police.

On this issue it is. On other issues it hasn’t changed anything afaik.

I could give you a few examples of other problems where church authorities pretend nothing is happening…(I find those cases mind boggling.)


I reminded my wife that an evangelical protestant school in our area that our son attended for a couple of years had a gym teacher who abused grade school kids and eventually went to prison for it. Unfortunately, the church that sponsored the school let the problem fester by trying to handle it internally for awhile by “counseling” the perpetrator while keeping the issue hidden from parents.

Eventually, some of the dissatisfied parents reported issue to the police and the guy (prominent church members’ son) was arrested. The school never rebounded from the issue and a lot of families removed their kids from the school to the point it closed down a few years later. So yes, admittedly the problem goes beyond the Catholic Church.

By ‘Church’, I mean all of us, within and outside the hierarchy. Everyone involved in a ministry, parish group, etc.

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