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A high school acquaintance from years ago recently told me about an incident in her family that raised concerns about sexual abuse.

Her son played ball on a traveling team. On one trip he came home a day early. The following is a close approximation of the conversation that reportedly transpired.

“You’re home early.”

“Yes, luckily. Tonight was my turn to sleep with Father.”

A sophomoric joke? Perhaps not if you’ve been paying attention.

“Spotlight,” an Oscar-winning 2015 film co-written and directed by Tom McCarthy, tells the real-life story of how an investigative team at The Boston Globe during the early 2000s researched and released numerous reports exposing sexual abuses in the Catholic Church, producing a series of fact-finding pieces that resulted in the Globe’s team becoming the 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner for public service.

“Spotlight” shows the pain and suffering of abuse victims as they tell their stories to Boston Globe reporters. Actor Neal Huff plays Phil Saviano, a Boston man who was abused by a priest when he was 11. In one scene, Huff holds a childhood photo. “When you’re a poor kid from a poor family and when a priest pays attention to you, it’s a big deal,” he states. “How do you say ‘no’ to God?”

How many in that situation, young and naïve, will say no to a priest who says he is only demonstrating a method to reduce sexual frustrations and save souls from aberrant cravings and sexual sinning?

In her October 2015 Associated Press column, “‘Spotlight’ film illuminates Boston clergy abuse scandal,” AP legal affairs writer Denise Lavoie wrote that the Boston priest sexual abuse scandal shook the Roman Catholic Church to its core. “Hundreds of priests molested children for decades and got away with it because church leaders covered it up.”

The scandal, explained Lavoie, “led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law and settlements with hundreds of victims.”

The stories in the film “detailed how church higher-ups — including Cardinal Law — knew priests were abusing children but moved them from parish to parish instead of removing them.”

In the November 2015 article “NCR research: Costs of sex abuse crisis to US church underestimated,” National Catholic Reporter correspondents Jack Ruhl, professor of accountancy at Western Michigan University, and Diane Ruhl, a clergy abuse survivor and medical professional, wrote that the cost of the cover-up by the church of sexual abuse in its ranks has been enormous in terms of money, institutional reputation and morality.

“The U.S. Catholic church has incurred nearly $4 billion in costs related to the priest sex abuse crisis during the past 65 years, according to an extensive NCR investigations of media reports, databases and church documents,” they wrote. “In addition, separate research recently published calculates that other scandal-related consequences such as lost membership and diverted giving has cost the church more than $2.3 billion annually for the past 30 years.

Further, the National Catholic Reporter found that close to $4 billion was paid out between 1950 and August 2015 in compensation and settlements to victims of clerical abuse.

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur. His email is [email protected].

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