After having litigated clergy sexual abuse claims in Philadelphia during the past six years on behalf of over 80 survivors, I was anxious to see what all the media hype calling the movie “Spotlight” an early contender for Oscars. Plus, through the nationwide organization SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) I had read about and met some of the key players in the movie including survivor Paul Saviano, attorneys Eric MacLeish (see statement before regarding the inaccurate portrayal of him by fellow Boston attorney Carmen Durso) and Mitch Garabedian.
With the exception of the false impression made about Attorney MacLeish, I thought the movie accurately depicts the plight of survivors and the tremendous legal hurdles that the Catholic Church employs to block survivors from receiving justice in the form of recognition of their harms, apologies for the Church’s failure to protect children and compensation for survivors’ injuries.
Rather than tell you about the entire movie, I urge you to go see it yourself. You will be glad you did. And I suspect you will feel stronger about child protection from sexual abuse and the troubles that survivors endure including the struggles of coming forward before the expiration of draconian Statute of Limitation laws like the ones in Pennsylvania that both the legislature and the judiciary refuse to modify.Boston Attorney Carmen Durso sets the records straight on portrayal of Eric MacLeish:
“Spotlight is a generally well made movie, and a valuable piece of work for informing the public about clergy and other institutional responsibility and misconduct. But there are numerous factual errors. The most glaring one is the mis-portrayal of Eric MacLeish as a money grubbing lawyer. The scene in which he is said to have met with Globe editor Walter Robinson is a total fiction. Eric was responsible for starting clergy abuse consciousness raising in 1992 when he brought the 62 Porter cases against the Fall River, MA diocese. During the mid-90’s, he attempted to get the Globe to write about several priests in the Boston Archdiocese but they only printed a one-time, very small article, which was buried in the paper, and did nothing else. The first investigative pieces were written in about 2000, not by the Globe, but by Kristen Lombardi, a very tenacious reporter with the Boston Phoenix, a weekly counter culture paper. Just as a sample of the errors, Joe Crowley is a survivor who is featured in the movie, and there is a conversation in which his character says that he tried to get Eric to take his case, but he was turned down by him. Actually, the woman reporter involved in that scene referred Joe to me, and Joe never even met or spoke with Eric until 2012, when I introduced them to each other. Treating Eric this way is particularly unfair for a number of reasons:
During 2002 and 2003, it was Eric’s legal work which brought the 552 cases to a head by his meticulously combing through about 10,000 pages of documents, putting it all together coherently, and then using them to depose Cardinal Law with devastating effect, which broke the case open.
Eric’s firm represented the largest number of the abuse survivors. Because he recognized how difficult it would be for many of them to deal with the stresses of litigation, he got his firm to hire a full time, in-house, licensed mental health therapist to assist them. To portray him as anything other than the hero of the piece is just wrong. Carmen”