Last night I watched the movie “Spotlight”. It was my second viewing, the first being over Christmas with and at the insistence of my oldest son, who still cannot wrap his mind around what he refers to as the ‘irrationality and absurdity’ of my past life. He tells me I was a willing functionary in an immoral institution. He keeps asking me with a pained expression, how could you of all people succumb to such brainwashing? I think he feels that because I was a man of the institution, I am less that he would have wanted me to be. It is the systemic abuse of power and dysfunction that angers him most, even more than the pitiful litany of individual abusers. Jonathan is a young writer and artist, and only very reluctantly a lawyer, and it is his moral and artistic soul that is so deeply offended. Like me, my eldest is ‘beyond intense’, and hence not beyond making me feel like an old Nazi trying to explain away his past affiliation and commitment. Hyperbole you ask, not for him? Not for him either any protestation that most people in and of the Church tried to be forces for good. What did you know, and what did you do about it? Why did you not know and why did you not do more? I once tried to share how when I taught at Gonzaga as a Jesuit Scholastic, Austin Brophy among others whom I coached in Basketball, warned my about Hickey and his cabin on the Bauline Line. I did tell my Superior, but I was shut down, told to leave it with him, and I did.
The characters in Spotlight are clones of people many of us knew at home. For those of you who have not seen the movie, do see it, and name the St. John’s equivalents. Some of the more uber orthodox among you will wonder why I am dragging all of this up again. Others of you will write me off as just another spoiled priest who left to marry. How little do you know? But know this, like the character Robbie in Spotlight notes: why, with all the evidence in front of us did so many of us turn a blind eye, or only do the minimal. So, Jonathan, I could have done more and I did not. You are right, it was a moral lapse more significant than anything I ever told a priest in the Confessional. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! For me, the most honest path I could take was to leave the Institution. Here I stand I can now do no other.