So Spotlight won the Academy Award as the Best Picture of 2015. Well deserved, a good cinematic descriptor of the attempt to challenge the rot in the institutional Catholic church circa 2001.
In an editorial the NCR wrote:
The movie powerfully illustrates what the church utterly failed to realize about itself: that the act of abuse, horrible as it is in any circumstance, was magnified in its unspeakable specifics because an all-male, celibate culture was so protective of its own status and privilege, so closed in on itself, that it was deaf to the searing pleas of children, parents, congregations and the few souls within its ranks who dared to speak the truth.
. . . .
Most of all, it took the courage of victims who came forward and withstood the often withering arrogance of bishops and their lawyers who tried to dismiss the disturbing truth.
The movie of course could not get into in-house Catholic stuff, namely the attempt to marginalize and shut down many of us all over Canada and the USA who were saying the same things as the Boston Globe.
It was a difficult time. We were caught between two paradigms, the first being the dying clerical culture of men who used their power to shut down any contrary opinions.The second model, struggling to be born was the rise of the sensus fidelium, the common sense voice of baptized Catholics who deeply understood that they were as important as the clerics who tried to stifle their voice.
Many of us were inspired by the ecclesiology of Yves Congar and his greatest disciple Richard McBrien.This new vision had been growing since the end of Vatican ll. Much of it was pure Lumen Gentium
The chosen people of God is one: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph.4:5)…They possess in common, one hope and one undivided charity. Hence, there is Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race, or nationality, social condition or sex, because, there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female. For you all are one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal. 3:28)
Lumen Gentium #32
We had internalized the idea that at we were an absolutely egalitarian people, a communio, a discipleship of equals. It is only after this self definition that we then move to the question of organization, This church, this people of God exists prior to any internal architecture. This fundamental structure, trinitarian and thus relational, must be our way forward. This exciting development, was one the first shoots of a new paradigm one which saw the church moving from hierarchy to dialogue where the entire people of God participate in the divine authority.
We were no longer accepting that the hierarchy was the church.
Prelates at whatever level were no longer seen as on a higher rung closer to God but members of a largely lay organization which they are called to accompany and serve. The will of God was no longer seen as that communicated directly to church officials and then downward.This new paradigm of course was in its infancy and was stalled in its inevitable implementation by the first wave of predictable reaction. These were the John Paul /Benedict XVl bishops who were unwilling to move to a more democratic church. They pounced on many of us who had been inspired by the egalitarian ecclesial thrust of Vatican ll which has just kept on growing.
Spotlight highlighted, as the NCR stated the role of “an all-male, celibate culture which was so protective of its own status and privilege… was deaf to the searing pleas of children, parents, congregations and the few souls within its ranks who dared to speak the truth.”
The bishops were “institutional men” who placed the church above the call of the reign of God which privileges the weak and unheard.
The fallout of this lamentable failure has been catastropic for the Catholic church. All of the lead Boston Globe journalists were lapsed Catholics. Millions followed in this mass exodus. Too many Catholic were heartbroken by the betrayal .
This is the church which Pope Francis has inherited.Sadly, the stone in his shoe are the bishops appointed by the previous two pontiffs. Tensions will continue between the best educated generation of baptized Catholics and a hierarchy which has yet to embrace the idea that the whole church is the bearer of revelation and that Baptism not Holy Orders is the fundamental sacrament. Almost overnight (54 years since the beginning of the Council) the non-ordained have inexorably morphed into a priesthood of all believers, an idea which had taken decades to sink in. The realization had finally permeated many: the Catholic Church is not the papacy, the bishop is not the church and the priest is not the pope in his parish.
Only time will tell if the institution can recover from its institutional autism. Many of us have remained because we believe that the world needs the sacramental presence and the social justice vision of the Roman Catholic church.