I viewed the film “Spotlight” last night, seldom does a film make me nibble my nails, cry, lean forward in my seat and find my hand across my chest in a gesture of empathy/disbelief, it was utterly stunning!! Aside from the fact I expect a serious slew of Oscar nominations for the film and it’s pitch perfect cast, I will say, Liev Schreibers performance, his voice, speech pattern, and even the body language, SO very Dustin Hoffman, but in no means that detracts from the film or makes his character and performance any less spectacular, his choice of character embodiment I think was beyond wise!
The subject matter stirred so much in me, I had SO much I wanted to talk to Rob about in regards to this film ( that is the fabulous thing about this gorgeous, opulent theater a mere 2 1/2 blocks from our house, we always see films of such high caliber there that we have no choice but to blather on after as they are so thought provoking ), so, we stopped at a cafe at the corner going onto our street and ordered our libations and as our large, meandering conversation unfolded, I was somewhat torn, I wanted to come home and WRITE for hours, this too happens after many of the films we see there, so inspiring and controversial or beautiful that it winds my brain up like a ballerina in a music box!!
The premise of the film is all based on a true and very disturbing story that unfolded in Boston, but, the ripple effect was actually felt world wide, as it tore open the repugnant truth of the horrors the Catholic church allowed for SO VERY LONG to go on, the repulsive world wide cover up of the sexual abuse of children that was not just known about, but there was actually a “system” created to keep the victims quiet, their families shamed into silence, occasionally paltry pays offs for their signatures to protect those that hurt these children, AND, keep the priests systematically moved from parish to parish to keep them safe so that they may continue to pray upon those who prayed to them!!!
As a child, we went to church almost every Sunday, we went to Sunday school, made our first communions and I sang in the childrens choir, and eventually, even though I was a kid, I sang in both the adult and childrens choir of a very beautiful Episcopal church located in a fairly well heeled part of town, our entire family went there, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, so, though I hated waking up early, I liked sitting up with my friends in the choir and singing loudly and giggling as we loudly unwrapped the pockets full of candy my Grandma stuffed in my pockets each week that I shared with the other kids, I liked the social hour after when everyone mingled in the basement, though, the congregants who lived in the big houses and drove the fancy cars, always were the most stingy with their “snack”, however, when it came to any of my family being in charge, there was always an abundance of homemade yummies and folks always flocked, which was funny to me, we were all Commercial Fishing Families, which meant, at times, we were as poor as can be ( though, my mother never let on to us kids, she made breakfast for supper a special occasion, WE GOT TO WEAR OUR PAJAMAS TO THE TABLE!!!!!, and lots of pasta, and of course, many meals of whatever my father caught ) but we always gave in the collection plate, back then, it was in an envelope with your name on it. I was young, but knew it was uncool for the those with money to be cheap when it was their turn for social hour ( donut holes cut in HALF!! ), and then, one day, I overheard a phone conversation, someone from the church had called our home and the call made my mother cry, and when I found out why, the first crack in my belief in the “church” came fast and furious, as at this age, I was still young and protective of my mother, not yet a spiteful teenager, and the reason for this phone call, to SHAME us, the poor family, to give MORE money in our contributions, I was OUTRAGED, and I didn’t even know that word at that age!!
On Sundays, we were preached to about goodness, kindness, doing the right thing, HELPING those in need, what a crock of shit, they didn’t help us, they knew our situation, but, they just sternly held out their hands, my first true understanding of financial greed. Another thing they preached, Love Thy Neighbor, well guess what, that they did!! I went to an evening church social, one of those potlucks or something, had some music playing, adults dancing, kids running around and playing, I always played and danced like a whirling dervish and didn’t stop till I was all sweaty and flushed, I grabbed some water and went to the side door to stand just outside long enough to cool off and get rid of the pounding headache, yet, what I saw, made my head hurt worse, I saw more then one couple embracing in the shadows, and it WASN’T with their spouses!! This made my stomach churn, I felt frightened and confused, these were who sat up at the pulpit ( is that what it’s called, I have forgotten ), facing the congregation, people who held a place within the church, and, I even knew then what adultry was, and I found my parents dancing and told them I was sick, we had to go home, and since I was warm and flushed and holding my belly, they bundled me up and took me straight home and put me to bed, with a cool wash cloth on my head, my mother lingered, like she knew I was anxious about something else, but she didn’t push me, I eventually pretended to fall asleep so she could go do the same and I didn’t sleep that night, I spent the whole time having my first crisis of faith, I was a zombie at school that Monday, so perplexed, confused, and a strange sadness began to uncoil it’s tendrils to take root in my soul.
I spent choir practice with the adults sneaking looks of suspicion and disdain because I thought they were all cheating on each other and I wanted to stop singing in both choirs, but, I toughed it out, hoping I would shake it off, bury it somewhere and lock up the yucky film it left on my skin, sadly, that second crack in my initial fault line was so far from the worst, I had NO CLUE how I sat beside true peril for so long.
I had noticed one of the girls in the childrens choir had begun to become withdrawn, missing practice or church sometimes, that over time, some others seemed uneasy, less lively, but, I just assumed since we were all heading towards becoming teenagers, we were all just suffering the usual assortment of the angst that was appropriate for that age, I for one was riddled with problems with school, friends, home, etc, so, I just assumed we were all in the same boat, but we weren’t, I was too young to realize I was watching someone drown slowly before my eyes, that sitting next to me and singing with me, were those being sexually abused by a man who held a station in the church of high regard. I had already begun to feel “uncomfortable” around not just him, but the older man who taught both the children and adult choirs during the week in the evenings,but, I had no clue.
I have NO clue as to how long this had been going on, how long it was being covered up and I do not remember how I found out, but I did, no more fault lines, full on earthquake, I may have escaped unscathed by those who had hurt those I sat beside, however, I was, and still am, a victim. I had my Faith, my sense of religion STOLEN from me, I was robbed, and it was then that I learned that I could be pushed to a point of becoming forever unforgiving, it was my first foray into that terrible pit that also cut part of my childhood short, and that, you can never regain either.
I made a deal with my mother, I would complete the farce of my confirmation, but I would no longer sing in the choir, I sat with my parents and cousins and the rest of my family in the pews, safe from the vile ones who I shot hot daggers at with my eyes. I even stopped pretending to sing the hymns, I just stood there, disgusted. After my confirmation, the only time I attended church was for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, but that even became empty in a short few years, but, I wanted to be with my family so I went, but, I spent most of my time questioning every angle of what I knew and continued to learn. I was friends with one of the girls who was abused, and, watching her change, I didn’t know how to help her, to talk to her, how to approach her without further hurting her. Only once did we even vaguely allude to it, we were walking the halls after school had let out, I was in big trouble, yet again, and I was really trying to delay going home as much as possible and she came up to me, and said “how do you think I feel” and she gave my arm a tiny, gentle squeeze, I cried the entire walk home, not because I knew I was going to be in so much trouble, but because, that was NOTHING, not even a tear in a salty sea compared to her horrors, we never spoke of it again, but I watched a once vibrant, confident girl become scooped out, mechanically moving through school days and all of her vibrance was snuffed out, I began to equate the church to the school bully, and that hurt me, because though I complained about waking up early and putting on my nice clothes sometimes, I loved the structure, the stained glass, the voices singing as the beauty of the sound wafted through the opened stained glass bible depicted windows and bounced off of the ancient, tiny cemetery that lay beside the childrens chapel ( why didn’t I think the proximity of the two wasn’t creepy back then eludes me even still ), over time, when driving past it when we were out in that area, I would look the other direction, I didn’t want to acknowledge it being there, I was so young, and back then, even if I were bold and wanted to be bold and speak out, question, pound my fists, demand more be done, it would be something that would cast a shadow upon my entire family that would not be fair to them all. But, I still wish I had been braver in some capacity, but, I had no clue how common this was, ALL of it, the 3 blows to my soul that ripped faith in the church from me at such a tender age, hell, it was, and is, a WORLD WIDE EPIDEMIC!!!!
The bravery of those in Boston who began to dig through the sludge, the tenacity each time they hit a wall the church built to keep those who were guilty safe, their tenacity, unlike any I can imagine, the horror stories they heard from the MANY victims, the gruesome, heart breaking details of the accounts, and that is only from those who came forward, those who did not slit their wrists, blow their brains out of slowly kill themselves with drugs and booze from the pain and shame, their stories remain forever untold, BUT, the safety those reporters gave to the victims, and once the story broke, so many countless who thought they were alone, could breath, and come forward and tell their stories, FINALLY, what these reporters did was not only tenacious in nature, all consuming for so long, eating them up, they gave victims a chance to break their silence, be heard, find help, try to mend as much of their wound they could, and it was a WORLD WIDE cover up, they didn’t just rip the lid off of the 70 priests in Boston, they tore the Church to shreds in a tidal wave in every continent, ASTONISHING!! I am certain despite the accolades that were heaped upon them for such unbelievable reporting and the hard truth of what they wrote, I can imagine, to this day, they are still haunted by the stories, those who cried endless angry tears as they broke their silence, the many they spoke with who were ravaged by drugs and booze to dull the pain, those images, those stories, they may fade just a titch over many years, but will ALWAYS be there.
People ask me if I am religious, I always have the same reply, I am Spiritual, and that beats the fuck out of religious any day in my book, To me being Spiritual, that is governing ones self to be a good person, to do the right thing, to be kind, loving and giving, not because some red faced, fist pounding person standing in front of me is threatening me with eternal damnation in hell for “sins”. We are human beings, imperfect and always will be, my beliefs are gleaned from Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and a few others, each offer ideals that I personally subscribe to to make up my personal belief system. I often say to folks, crass, but true ” Don’t be a dick “, that’s the bottom line to me. Strive to improve your morals, to open your heart and keep it open even though others will harm it, to always remember there hundreds of thousands in far worse scenarios then I, and to help who I can, as much as I can ( a lot of that comes from how my Mother raised me ) but, as I navigate life, make mistakes, bad choices, do something hurtful, it is up to me, due to my personal belief system, to atone for what I can, to improve myself, to do better at being a good person, to be more loving, to be kind.
Perhaps that is why the Catholic Church, the largest land owning “Corporation” in the world, went to such great lengths to suppress the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as I read ( and I know, don’t believe everything you read, trust me, I get it, BIG TIME!!!), that the original concept in religion, prayer, etc, was that Jesus did NOT want money spent on structures being built to pray in, that you can pray any where, any time, in our hearts and minds, that instead of spending money to erect gorgeous, sumptuous, elaborate cathedrals, churches, etc, that was wrong, you spend the money on feeding your family, helping the less fortunate, the infirmed, the elderly and such. What I read, and again, I am abundantly aware, it could all be malarkey, that to do otherwise was the opposite of the initial intent of the foundation of the Christian religion, so, one could imagine, if these documents were to say as much, there would actually be hell to pay!! And to think, instead of our church helping my family during our leanest of times, they just guilted their way into shoving their hands in our pockets, seems pretty ass backwards, wouldn’t you say?!?
Some of you who may have taken the time to read my Mini Novella I have just blathered on about, have known me for some time, and those folks know I don’t readily enter into conversations of such heft, I prefer to listen, silently disagree with some, be inspired to think and possible reconsider due to others, thus, some may be a trifle surprised that not only did I take the time to write it, but I put it out there for all to read or ignore, ridicule or nod in agreement, but here it is, MY truth, MY beliefs, MY reasons why.
In case I forgot to mention, you really ought to view this film “Spotlight”, if it can inspire me to write such a bold, lengthy, personal mini “essay” of sorts, who knows what you will take away from it, at the very least, a damn fine film, stellar cast and a true story told VERY well.
***One of the things I was JUST now thinking about, after writing all of that, is that I am angry at those who robbed me of my faith as a child, ALL who bastardized what can be beautiful about church and religion, and that as Christmas approaches, that I will once again think about going to Midnight Mass and trying to consider enjoying what was once such a beautiful thing for me, but I know it wouldn’t feel good ,it would make me sad, quite possibly would feel heartbreaking***