With its win for Best Picture cemented in the public consciousness, one would think that the Catholic Church – particularly The Vatican – would be decrying Spotlight's victory. With Thomas McCarthy's film being so critical of the church's past behaviors involving cases of sexual abuse, one could hardly blame them. Yet that's not the response the official Vatican newspaper had, as they actually praised the film's message.
L'Osservatore Romano ran an editorial today simply titled, "It's Not An Anti-Catholic Film," which is actually an even handed assessment of last night's Best Picture winner. Right from the start, the film is qualified in the following positive light:
[Spotlight is] not anti-Catholic, as has been written, because it manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities.
Naturally, while the newspaper has praised Spotlight's work in bringing to light the story of sexual abuse perpetrated and hidden by the Boston Archdiocese, they did point out what the film was missing from its eventual end game. Most specifically, the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI and his "long and tenacious battle" against pedophile priests was mentioned as an omission from Thomas McCarthy and Josh Singer's award winning screenplay. However, this was written off as a simple matter of the film not having the time to jump into all of the particulars. While this may sound a little back-handed, this is actually a pretty big step for The Vatican in terms of popular culture.
With the highest levels of the Roman Catholic church endorsing Spotlight for its even handed approach to its subject matter, the more progressive attitudes seen under Pope Francis' papacy seem to be extending to matters of non-fiction entertainment. It's hard to believe that any other era of papal rule would see Spotlight's actions for their true worth, but this does not seem to be the case with those currently in power. Which means that film-makers and clergy alike can begin to have a more constructive dialogue than ever before, through the means of films such as this.
Spotlght may not have taken home as many awards as Mad Max: Fury Road last night, but the film's top prizes of Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay will help keep its name alive for years to come. Hopefully, this will inspire others with similarly inspirational stories to make films as powerful and effecting as Thomas McCarthy's powerhouse of both acting and writing talent, furthering the conversation between the public, the artists, and the institutions that hold such power in our society.
Spotlight is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.