OK, I know what writers do is important and all, but, hey, we’re not the only storytellers, and the stories we tell (often our own wounding experiences reissued as fiction) sometimes pale next to vivid true tales told on behalf of others. Today I heard the IRL lawyer from Spotlight, Mitchell Garabedian (the Stanley Tucci character) tell his story, the non-Hollywood version. (In case you missed Spotlight: it dramatizes 2001 Boston Globe journalists uncovering Catholic Church cover-up of massive clergy sex abuse in Boston area, involving over 250 priests and hundreds more children.)
Hollywood mostly nailed it, he said. “At the screening, they asked me, ‘Did we get it right?’ Even Hollywood couldn’t believe the extent of the cover-up, the numbers. ‘Yes,’ he said, adding ‘then, one of the producers, she started to cry.”
In 1994, a woman Garabedian had known for years came to him. She had three kids, 8, 10 and 12. They lived in Waltham projects, the father was out of the picture. The kids had begun acting strangely. One of the boys had started washing his hands hundreds of times a day, washing, washing until they bled…another took daily two hour showers…the other was a gentle kid, now engaging in violent play. Something was very wrong, but she didn’t know what. There was a Father Geoghan who helped families in her neighborhood, taking boys for outings, helping to read them to sleep at night…Garabedian began investigating and eventually discovered that other kids Geoghan “helped out with” had similar problems…then Garabedian started getting confessions from the boys…he approached the Archdiocese, certain they’d be shocked and grateful to know of the problem, and would remove the priest right away. Instead, they expressed no surprise. They offered Garabedian money, and he discovered that families in other underserved parishes where Geoghan used to work–they’d all taken money to keep quiet about him.
“It’s not the religion I vilify,” he said, intent on making the distinction. “It’s the Church, the Institution. Canon Law says that clergy sex abuse cases are to be kept quiet. But institutional secrecy allowed clergy sex abuse to go on for decades ensuring that kids would be raped, molested, traumatized, irrevocably damaged. It’s still going on! After Spotlight won the Oscar, the phone in my office the next day rang off the hook. Now, I have cases from all over the world.”
Ironically, the talk–part of the Re-Opening Celebration of Ralph Nader’s new American Museum of Tort Law–was held in a church.