Well. This is amazing news to have awakened to this morning. Even as His Eminence Cardinal George Pell was saying the following in Rome after his security guards had strongarmed Australian journalists,*
I can't remember
I'm struggling to remember
I can't clearly recall
I have no clear recollection of my knowing
It's difficult to answer that absolutely
My memory is not infallible,
"Spotlight" was winning the coveted top-picture Oscar, and its producer Michael Sugar was telling the world,
This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican. Pope Francis, it's time to protect the children and restore the faith.
Talk about prophetic juxtaposition! As if the Cardinal Pells of the church are precisely what Pope Francis needs to restore the faith from — as if they have so brutally and sinfully betrayed the faith that it can be restored only by removing such men from the center of the church, and building it anew on a sounder basis, one that, can we possibly dream it?, might include women at the center, and which would actively welcome survivors and what they have to tell us about their experience of the church.
Poor Cardinal Pell can't remember. And yet remembering is front and center in the Christian tradition, since Jesus enjoined his followers to break bread and share cups of wine in memory of him. He enjoined his disciples quite precisely to pass memory on as a living and not a dead thing — not to forget; always to remember; to find him and the entire significance of his life in bread that's broken and wine that's poured out.
Both "Spotlight"'s win last evening and Cardinal Pell's disgraceful performance before the Royal Commission on Abuse put Pope Francis squarely on the spot, since, as Barbie Latza Nadeau notes, Pell is Pope Francis's man in Rome, and Francis brought him to Rome: she writes,
Also of great interest is what, if anything, Pope Francis will do in the way of reaction to Pell's time on the stand and accusations against him, which will surely come to his attention.
"George Pell has long been regarded as Rome's man in Australia, which necessarily involves prioritizing the interests of Rome above everyone else," Nicky Davis of the Australia chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, told The Daily Beast last year. "More and more Australian Catholics strenuously disagree with Pell's response to child sex crimes by clergy, but their views, like the cries for help of victims, are ignored."
Little wonder that, as Joshua McElwee has tweeted this morning, Francis met with Pell only hours after Pell's testimony.
Meanwhile, the tweets and Facebook postings have been flying fast and furious, and people are celebrating — fêting the unexpected triumph of this movie focusing on abuse survivors, the courage and perseverance of those survivors, the lifting up of the lowly as the mighty tumble from their thrones. As Laurie Goodstein of New York Times tweeted last evening when the Oscar for "Spotlight" was announced,
Abuse survivors around the world are crying tonight. @SpotlightMovie won best picture.— Laurie Goodstein (@lauriegnyt) February 29, 2016
And as Leander James posted on his Facebook feed this morning,
AND a BIG shout goes out to SNAP this morning, whose early leaders, members and message inspired the journalists, who inspired the movie makers, who inspired the actors, who inspired the Academy to Give "Spotlight" two Oscars, and who have all sent the message around the world and to the Vatican.
There's something quite remarkable in this story, isn't there? A story of a group of people treated as despised, unwanted nobodies to whom no one would listen when they began telling us about what they had endured at the hands of Catholic authority figures, to whom not even the media would listen when they first came forward, who, in a mere two or three decades, have so captured the imagination of the world that an actor, director, and writer of a movie march side by side with them in a public demonstration, as as a movie about these survivors is being considered for an award.
If I were the men running the Catholic church, I might be inclined to be a bit afraid that God could possibly be in this effervescent mix, since the God whom they claim to remember in liturgy and proclamation, in teaching and tradition, has a well-known modus operandi of standing with the despised little folks against heartless high and mighty ones. The latter being the sort whose thrones topple due to the penchant of that quirky God for the lowly, the poor, the beaten up and trodden down . . . .
As Kaya Oakes cheekily tweeted last evening, who knows, maybe "Spotlight"'s win might mean — we can dream, can't we? — that some of us marginal scholarly types who feel bound by our vocational calling to seek and tell the truth about the church might finally find employment somewhere:
Spotlight wins best picture. Does that mean those of us who want to write honestly about the Catholic Church might actually be employable?— kaya oakes (@kayaoakes) February 29, 2016
And then there's Libby Nelson's salient reminder that the Catholic abuse crisis, which exists and has long existed in many places in the world other than Boston, is not by any means over yet, and we cannot allow our vigilance to relax even after "Spotlight" won this award — perhaps especially not now:
The most moving, powerful moment of the movie, for me, didn't involve any of the actors or any dialogue — it was at the very end, as the credits rolled, when the screen displayed a seemingly endless list of all the other places where abusive priests had been reported. Just thinking of it now I'm getting angry all over again.
* And see Harry Tucker, "Here's the List of Things Cardinal Pell Can't Remember," at Business Insider Australia this morning.