Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley Recognizes 'Impact' of 'Spotlight'

Says film is important "for all impacted by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse."

ByABC News
March 1, 2016, 12:32 PM

— -- After "Spotlight" took home the Oscar for Best Picture on Sunday night, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, who currently serves as the Archbishop of Boston, addressed the impact he believes the film and its real-life investigation have had on the Catholic Church and the victims of abuse.

O'Malley called "Spotlight" an important film "for all impacted by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse."

He then addressed the real story behind the movie, the investigation by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team and the articles that were published, starting in 2002, that broke the story wide open and raised awareness about the abuse all over the world. In the film, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton and others portray the Spotlight team and show how the team was able to expose what Cardinal O'Malley admits were "crimes" against children.

"By providing in-depth reporting on the history of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the media led the Church to acknowledge the crimes and sins of its personnel and to begin to address its failings, the harm done to victims and their families and the needs of survivors," the Cardinal said in a statement to ABC News. "In a democracy such as ours, journalism is essential to our way of life. The media's role in revealing the sexual abuse crisis opened a door through which the Church has walked in responding to the needs of survivors."

PHOTO: The cast of the movie "Spotlight," from left, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian d'Arcy James.
The cast of the movie "Spotlight," from left, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian d'Arcy James.

O'Malley, who has been the Archbishop of Boston since 2003, called protecting children and helping the victims "a priority" for the Church.

"We are committed to vigilant implementation of policies and procedures for preventing the recurrence of the tragedy of the abuse of children," he added. "These include comprehensive child safety education programs, mandatory background checks and safe environments training, mandatory reporting to and cooperating with civil authorities with regard to allegations of abuse."

The 71-year-old -- who took over for Bernard Francis Law, the Cardinal mentioned in the film and in charge of Boston at the time of the investigation -- closed his statement by acknowledging that the Church continues "to seek the forgiveness of all who have been harmed by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse and pray that each day the Lord may guide us on the path toward healing and renewal."

In speaking with ABC News last month, Spotlight reporter and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mike Rezendes said the movie's release in theaters more than a decade after the original investigation is key because it "tells the world that the issue of clergy sex abuse has not gone away and it's still very, very important to keep it at the center of public attention."

Spotlight’s exhaustive investigation into the abuse of children by former priest John Geoghan -- and other priests -- led to outrage from church-goers not only in Boston, but abroad, and a call for global reform. The Spotlight team not only reported the abuse by priests, but published Church documents that proved high-ranking members knew about the abuse.

“The church has made improvements to try to stop clergy sex abuse. There are more laws. There are more requirements that church officials have background checks. I think there's still work to do,”,” said Sacha Pfeiffer, another member of the Globe Spotlight team back in the early 2000's. "One of the good things about this movie is it keeps the church vigilant, because there are more people aware of the issue and keeping an eye on the issue."