After seeing the movie “Spotlight”, this column was written in January 2016 and is being reprinted in light of the recent developments in the Salina Diocese.

 

“So I guess we just got lucky. You and me.”

That line was from the Oscar-nominated movie “Spotlight” recently shown at the Salina Arts Center Cinema. It also won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Picture.

In the movie, Robby Robinson, a Boston Globe editor who grew up a good Catholic in Boston, was told by a classmate that Father James Talbot abused him when he was younger.

“I never told my wife,” the classmate said of the abuse.

He said he always wondered why Talbot picked him. The only answer was that the classmate was a member of the hockey team.

Later in the movie, Robinson, played by Michael Keaton, asked a Jesuit Boston College High School alumni if he played sports.

“Yeah. Football. Why?”

Robinson said he ran track.

“Father Talbot coached the hockey team,” Robinson says. “So I guess we just got lucky. You and me.”

The movie was a portrayal of the Boston Globe’s investigative Spotlight team which won a Pulitzer Prize for its 2002 exposé of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the cover-up by Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archdiocese of Boston.

I knew a Father Talbot when I attended elementary school. The priest I knew possessed many of the same characteristics as Father Talbot was described in the movie.

This priest didn’t want to be a father figure or even an older brother figure. He wanted to be your friend.

He often told jokes, uttering mild swear words.

“I know I’m going to heaven,” he once said after a fire drill at the elementary school.

“Why?”

“Because that just scared the hell out of me,” he said.

Talbot was a hockey coach. This priest was a basketball coach, and a pretty good one at that.

To this day, every time I see a basketball player catch a pass and immediately start dribbling, I am reminded of my elementary school basketball practices.

We often practiced a no-dribble offense, teaching us to look and pass first. Dribbling was a last resort. I’ve seen a lot of teams that could benefit from a no-dribble practice.

One summer I served as an altar boy each morning before baseball practice.

Occasionally, this priest allowed us altar boys to sip the wine after Mass.

In the movie, the Spotlight team was able to recognize potential abusers because those priests didn’t stay long in one church, moving frequently.

The theory was that when an incident of abuse was discovered, the family was paid off and the priest was transferred to another parish.

Just like the alleged priests sexually abusing young boys and girls in the movie, the priest of my elementary years didn’t stay long in one parish.

According to BishopAccountability.org, he served 20 years as a priest in six different cities. He was accused in 1987 of sexual abuse of two boys that occurred in several cities between 1975 and 1986. This priest left my parish in 1972.

According to church officials, he left the priesthood and was later defrocked by the Church.

“So I guess we just got lucky. You and me.”

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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