The story “Spotlight” doesn’t tell

It was late fall 2001, the news coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was slowing down, and a half-dozen investigative journalists were huddling in a Boston newsroom. They were sitting on the next big story.

Since early summer, the team had tracked down credible evidence of sexual abuse perpetrated by more than 70 clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston. None of the cases had ever seen the light of day. The story was big, but it wasn’t big enough. Not yet.

Click here for a FAQs sheet on “Spotlight”

According to the movie “Spotlight,” which recounts how the Boston Globe broke the clergy sexual abuse scandal wide open in 2002, editor Marty Baron wasn’t interested in giving the Church a black eye, he wanted much more.

In a key scene, Baron tells his team to “go after the institution,” and prove that “priests were protected from being prosecuted, that they were reassigned again and again.”

The movie ends as the Globe’s first exposé on the scandal hits the streets on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2002. The headline reads: “Church allowed abuse by priest for years: Aware of Geoghan record, archdiocese still shuttled him from parish to parish.”

As the movie’s title suggests, the film “spotlights” the work of journalists to expose the mishandling of sexual abuse allegations in Boston at the highest levels. What it doesn’t do, however, is tell the story of what happened next.

After the revelations of the Globe’s investigations, Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory, then president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, issued a formal statement expressing “profound sorrow that some of our priests were responsible for this abuse under our watch.”

By June of that year, the bishops of the United States decided that a coordinated policy and response was needed at the episcopal conference level, and they unanimously approved the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

It’s important to understand that before 2002, how a diocese handled sexual abuse allegations was left to the discretion of the local bishop (the Archdiocese of Denver first issued its Code of Conduct in 1991).

With the new charter, uniform procedures for handling sex abuse allegations were put into place for not only clergy, but also for lay teachers, parish staff, and any other adult that has contact with youth on behalf of the Church. In an unprecedented move, they pledged to provide a “safe environment” for all children in Church-sponsored activities.

Other main components included a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual abuse, background checks for all Church employees, mandatory reporting to civil authorities, immediate removal from ministry of those accused, improvements in seminary formation, and most importantly, help for victims.

As of 2015, the U.S. bishops’ conference reports that 2.4 million adults and 4.4 million children have been trained to spot and report abuse. Nearly every diocese has established an office to coordinate safe environment training and to provide support for those abused. Every diocese reports all allegations to civil authorities, and works with law enforcement in cases of sexual misconduct. According to numbers released by the U.S. bishops, the Church has spent $2.8 billion to address the scandal.

Since 2003, the first year of implementation of the charter, the Archdiocese of Denver has trained more than 65,000 adults and continues to train 4,000-5,000 every year. Some 23,000 children are trained, and re-trained every year, at their current grade level.

The Archdiocese of Denver also partners with the State of Colorado in its efforts to combat abuse of children across the state. New this year is a state-wide phone number (1-844-CO-4-KIDS) that everyone can use to report all cases of neglect or abuse of children.

The Boston Globe series on the clergy abuse scandal was exactly what every journalist hopes his or her work will be—the catalyst that effects change in a system that is failing.

Why the movie “Spotlight” ignored the lasting effects of the Globe’s investigation is unclear, but what is clear is that much good has been done to correct past failings, and that’s a win for the Globe, for the victims, and for all of us.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.