The director and co-writer of Spotlight, the Hollywood film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the cover-up of clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, paid tribute to British abuse survivor Peter Saunders while accepting an award at the Baftas ceremony.
Tom McCarthy and his co-writer Josh Singer, who was not in attendance, won the Bafta for best original screenplay.
During his acceptance speech, McCarthy said Saunders, who recently refused a request to “take a leave of absence” from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors after a vote of confidence, was “an inspiration”.
In his short speech, McCarthy commended “the courageous survivors (of abuse) who came forward and shared their stories with us and the world.”
“They continue to do that now, continue to put pressure for change,” he said.
“I’ll give a shout out to Peter Saunders, a UK citizen and survivor and the great work he is doing now in this country and at the Vatican. You are an in inspiration to us all, quite truly.”
Earlier this month, after the vote of no confidence by the the Pontifical Commission, Saunders described the decision as “outrageous”.
At a press conference in Rome, he said: “I was asked to consider what my role should be with the commission. I did not make a decision to take or accept any decision on a leave of absence. I said I would reflect on what I would do. I may well have been back in the meeting shortly.
“I then heard that the Vatican had made a statement about my taking a leave of absence. I was never told in advance of any such statement and I find it outrageous that I was not told, much less that the statement occurred before I had had any time to reflect on what I might do next.”
Set in 2001, Spotlight focuses on the Boston Globe’s team of investigative journalists as they reported on numerous cases of abuse by priests and the subsequent cover-up by the archdiocese. The film has been nominated for best picture at the Oscars.
Speaking to the Catholic Herald last month, McCarthy said he was not seeking to “sensationalise” the subject matter.
“It’s a sensitive issue and part of our approach was to not sensationalise or be gratuitous,” he said.
“It’s not just a question of a newspaper going after the Church but also a larger question of societal complicity and deference, in this case towards the Church, but also in general.
“What did people know and was it just the power of the Church stopping them from speaking out, or was there more to it? I hope this is a universal movie that transcends this particular case and speaks of other institutions where bad things are happening.”