Spotlight (I) (2015)
The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.
When the Boston Globe's tenacious "Spotlight" team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston's religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world.
In existence since the 1970s, Spotlight is the investigative reporting unit of the Boston Globe. They can spend months or years on a single story, which they choose amongst themselves. As such, they are somewhat autonomous from the rest of the newspaper, only needing to report to their superior. As a rule, they are not to discuss their work with anyone else, whether it be other staff, friends and or family. In 2001, the four person team consisted of its editor Walter Robinson - Robby to his friends - and his team of three investigative journalists, Michael Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer and Matt Carroll. Robby reports to the assistant managing editor, Ben Bradlee Jr.. Upon his arrival from his most recent position in Florida, Marty Baron, the newly appointed editor-in-chief. Mr. Baron requests Spotlight to place their current project on hold and dig deeper into a recent story written by fellow Globe reporter and columnist Eileen McNamara, regarding allegations against a Catholic priest of sexual abuse of a minor and what appears to be the subsequent cover-up by the head of the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law. They are at first hesitant to work on the story, seeing Baron as an outsider to Boston, he who doesn't understand what is important to locals. Baron's outsider status includes not being born and raised there, and not being Catholic (he being the Globe's first Jewish editor-in-chief). Spotlights first task is to see if they can get some court documents on the case unsealed, which means they will need a court order. The Church and its parishioners could falsely interpret this as The Globe suing the Catholic church. This could have major, negative consequences for The Globe due to the fact that a majority of their subscribers are Catholic. Robby and his team begin by speaking to lawyers who have or are working on alleged sexual abuse cases perpetrated by Catholic priests in and immediately surrounding Boston (those lawyers said including Eric MacLeish and Mitchell Garabedian), known victims (such as Phil Saviano, the head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)) and insiders in the Catholic church. Through this investigation, they get wind that the problem is not contained to a couple of priests and few victims, in essence changing the focus from the priest(s) to the systemic problem of the Archdiocese not only covering up the abuse but in reality doing nothing to stop it and thus condoning it. Their goal is not only the end product of an important story, but making sure that the other major local newspapers, such as the Boston Herald, do not beat them to the scant outline of the story in the public consciousness which the Catholic church could easily quash. Through it all, they may come to some unpleasant realizations that not only the Archdiocese and the Catholic church in general are to blame for what happened.
In 2001, editor Marty Baron of The Boston Globe assigns a team of journalists to investigate allegations against John Geoghan, an unfrocked priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. Led by editor Walter "Robby" Robinson, reporters Michael Rezendes, Matt Carroll and Sacha Pfeiffer interview victims and try to unseal sensitive documents. The reporters make it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.
In 2001, the Jewish editor Marty Baron is hired by The Boston Globe and he asks the Spotlight team to investigate the priest John Geoghan that was accused of abusing children and the lawyer Mitchell Garabedian that has told that Cardinal Law knew what his priest did. Walter 'Robby' Robinson, Mike Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer and Matt Carroll are fully supported by Baron and their leader Ben Bradlee, Jr. to set in motion the investigation of the priest and they contact the initially reluctant Garabedian; the lawyer Eric Macleish that has defended many victims; the leader of the victims' rights organization Phil Saviano; and several victims that accept to meet them. After one year investigation, they confirm the names of twenty pedophile priests in Boston and they publish the story showing that Cardinal Law had prior knowledge of the priests' abuse of children
The true story of how, in 2001, reporters at the Boston Globe investigated accusations of Catholic priests in Boston molesting children. Following on from leads, interviews with victims, existing court cases and extensive research they reveal decades of abuse. Moreover, they discover that the issue was far wider spread than they at first believed, that senior members of the diocese were aware of the issue and that the church systemically covered up the crimes.
In 1976, at a Boston Police station, two policemen discuss the arrest of Catholic priest Fr. John Geoghan for child molestation and a high ranking cleric talks to the mother of the children. The Assistant District Attorney then enters the precinct and tells the policemen not to let the press get wind of what has happened. The arrest is hushed up, and the priest is released. In 2001, The Boston Globe hires a new editor, Marty Baron. Baron meets Walter "Robby" Robinson, the editor of the newspaper's "Spotlight" team, a small group of journalists writing investigative articles that take months to research and publish..
- The opening shot shows the text: BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS.
Boston, Massachusetts, 1976
At a police station, an older cop tells a younger one that the woman is hysterical, that she is divorced with four kids and that Father Geoghan was helping out. In an interview room, the Monsignor is talking to a distraught woman fingering rosary beads while her three children color with crayons. The young cop is told nobody can discuss this case with the papers and that the case isn't going to be arraigned.
Boston. July, 2001
It is the Boston Globe newsroom. A reporter named Stewart is retiring to be replaced by a new editor. Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton) gives a playful speech about his departure. Another reporter, Mike (Mark Ruffalo) carries a piece of cake downstairs to the Spotlight department, a small office with only two others on staff -- Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James). They are the investigative team for the Boston Globe, all working so hard on a story, they have to eat the cake for their lunch. They mention how sad it is to see Stewart go to a bigger paper and mention many others are leaving the company. The new boss that is coming on Monday is said to have cut a lot of people from the paper he ran in Miami; they worry he's going to phase out Spotlight. Nobody has met him yet but Robby is going to have lunch with him.
We cut to that lunch meeting. Marty Baron (Liev Schrieber) is reading 'The Curse of the Bambino' while he waits for Robby. When Robby suggests Marty check out a Red Sox game, Marty explains he's actually not a baseball fan but just trying to get a feel for his new city. He asks about Spotlight, which Robby explains is a four-person team that does investigative that reports to Ben Bradlee Jr. They just finished a story on a negligent construction site and are looking for a new story. Marty asks how long it takes and Robby says it can take weeks or up to a year because they don't like to rush things. Marty asks what they are working on now but Robby tells him all their investigation has been on their new editor since everyone is concerned about losing their job. Marty notes this is understandable as the Internet is making classifieds obsolete and they're losing revenue. Robby asks if this is why he asked about Spotlight but Marty tells him he had another reason.
The next day, Robby attends a 10:30 AM meeting where Marty is first introduced to the staff. He asks them if they've read Eileen McNamara's column about the Geoghan case. They're only vaguely familiar so he tells them it's about a Catholic priest that molested many children in six different parishes over the last 30 years. The lawyer for the victims, Mr. Garabedian, said that Cardinal Law found out about it 15 years earlier and did nothing. The cardinal denies this but the lawyer claims he has documents to prove it. He says they should write a story on this since it's only been in their paper twice in the last six months. Robby points out the documents are sealed but Marty tells him they can take the church to court for access. Ben confirms that he is suggesting they sue the Catholic Church. Marty says technically all they're doing is filing a motion to lift the seals on this documents. Ben points out everyone will still consider this suing the church. Marty isn't worried.
In Ben's office, Ben and Robby update Mike on Marty's suggestion to sue for the sealed documents in the Geoghan case. Eileen, who has written the article, gives them the lowdown on the people involved. The judge on the case is Catholic so they aren't hopeful she will rule in their favor. Marty suggests Spotlight take the story since it's now an investigative report.
Robby tells the Spotlight group about their new story -- not just the Geoghan case but that Cardinal Law knew about the allegations and covered it up to protect the corrupt Catholic Church and the Vactican's reputation. They decide to investigate Geoghan, as well as Eric MacLeish, the lawyer for the victims of molestation by another priest a decade earlier. Mike decides to meet with Mr. Garabedian, who's reaping the current victims. He's told he is a personality which doesn't faze Mike... he likes personalities.
The next day, Mike is kept waiting when he goes to Mr. Garabedian's office. He is ignored. Sacha and Robby visit Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup), a handsome lawyer. They ask if Eric's been following the Geoghan case and he mentions the 80 plaintiffs with all individual cases (not a class action suit). Eric points out the molestation cases are "all shitty" because the statute of limitation is only three years and most victims don't come forward until they're adults -- because of shame and guilt and they come from tough neighborhoods where they don't want other kids to know they were molested. And the charitable immunity statute caps damages at $20,000, which astonishes Robby. Eric says they should try the cases through the press, like he did years earlier. But he adds that most of the victims are afraid to be publicly interviewed -- he knows because he represented some of the victims. Eric tells them that his settling of the cases resulted in nothing more than acknowledgment of their victimhood by the bishop and a few thousand dollars. He suggests Mr. Garabedian doesn't really have sealed documents -- he's just bluffing to get a better deal. They think that would be risky but he believes Mitch Garabedian would do that and asks if they've met him.
We now meet Mr. Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) when Mike sneaks into his office as a client leaves. Mike reminds him of their appointment but Mr. Garabedian tries to blow him off, telling him the Phoenix is writing an article on him. Mike tells him he's following up on the article Eileen McNamara wrote about his suit he is told there are 86 individual suits, it's not one large one. Mr. Garabedian tells him he can't show him the documents because they're under seal. The church is trying to get him disbarred and he doesn't want to be speaking to Mike or to be on the record in any shape, even handwritten notes. Garabedian tells him he's already talked to the Phoenix but Mike tells him nobody reads the Phoenix but the Globe still has power. If they cover the story, it will be read by everyone -- they're just as powerful as the Catholic Church. Mike asks if he can interview some of the victims. Garabedian tells him he needs to think about it and to call him tomorrow.
At the Globe, Marty meets with Richard Gilman and tells him about challenging the protective order in the Geoghan case. Gilman points out that their subscriber base is a majority Catholic but okays the lawsuit. Down in the Spotlights office, a woman brings clippings on past reports regarding the case. Sacha mentions an organization for survivors of priest molestation called SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). It's run by a man named Phil Saviano. Matt finds a clip from their Religion column that mentions another priest molesting kids in Ohio and then being moved to Boston where he did the same thing. It wasn't Cardinal Law who swept it under the rug -- it was another cardinal. They now see a pattern that when these men are found molesting kids, they are quickly moved to another parish. The article mentions Jim Sullivan, a friend of Robby's, defended the priest.
Robby meets with Jim and his wife for dinner. He asks about the priest that Jim represented and whether the cardinals covered it up. Jim says he can't talk about the case, even off the record.
Sacha attends church with her very Catholic grandmother, a bit torn now that she's learning more about the cardinal covering up the molestations. She looks at all the young children singing in the choir and is unnerved. At the Globe, Mike continues trying to reach out to Garabedian. Marty meets with Cardinal Law who says he looks forward to working with the Globe. When Marty tells him, they are best to perform without the church's influence, the Cardinal mentions how another paper lost a lot of subscribers when the church disagreed with their stance on a topic. A secretary comes in and gives Marty a gift -- 'The Catechism of the Catholic Church.' (Marty is Jewish.)
The Spotlight team meets with Phil Saviano, who runs SNAP. He tells them when he was 11, he was preyed upon by a priest. He asks if any of them are Catholic. They all were raised Catholic but none of them are very religious now. Saviano tells them, "When a parish priest pays attention to you, it's a big deal. It's like God asking you for help. So one day, when he asks for a hand job, you give it to him. This is not just physical abuse but spiritual abuse because it robs you of your faith. You're ashamed and many end up becoming alcoholics or drug addicts or killing themselves -- hence why the organization is for survivors."
He tells them about a book written on a case in Louisiana and suggests talking to Richard Sipe, a former priest who worked at a treatment center, where priests are sent when they get caught. He tells them he sent all this information to the Globe about five years ago and they never ran the story. He was shocked because the story was big -- not just Boston but the whole country, even up to the Vatican. He knows of at least eight Catholic priests in Boston alone who have molested children.
Robby and Mike join Ben at a baseball game with Ben Bradlee and a reporter. They mention meeting with Saviano. Ben and the reporter know him because he sent hundreds of letters to their staff and they consider him not a reliable source. The next day, Mike returns to meet with Garabedian who tells Mike that he spoke with his clients and they don't want to be in the press. Mike explains this isn't for a profile piece but for a Spotlight story much bigger, that will be on the front page. This catches Garabedian's attention who tells him to come back later that week.
Robby and Sacha meet with Saviano and wonder about his credibility. He points out that he's being smeared for speaking out against the Catholic Church and complains that they never took him seriously before. They mention they have a new editor taking the story seriously and that Robby himself is now involved and he wasn't before. Saviano is convinced and decides to connect them with some of the survivors.
Sacha meets with a heavy, effeminate man named Joe at a cafe; he is very sweet but nervous. Meanwhile, Mike meets with one of Garabedian's clients at his office, Patrick. He is a handsome, masculine father who explains that his dad killed himself and his mom was schizophrenic. He tells them he doesn't want his name published. The two interviews are intercut simultaneously. Joe was sent to a group for kids from troubled families by a nun, led by the priest who raped him. Patrick was taken in by the priest after he lost his father. The priest took him to go get ice cream, which excited him. But on the drive home, he started touching Patrick through his pants which scared him but he couldn't do anything because it was a priest. He mentions that he never even touched his ice cream; it just melted down his arm. Joe told him his priest knew he was gay and showed him a mobile over a baby's crib with different words like homosexual, transsexual, and bisexual on it. Being attracted to men and being forced into sex at an early age really affected him. His mother found out about it years later and complained about the incident to the cardinal who responded by moving the priest to another parish. Sacha asks if his mother ever hired a lawyer but he said he only went to a lawyer for the first time a few years ago and was told he could only get a small settlement. Sacha asks who the lawyer was but he cant remember the name, only that he was handsome. Sacha then realizes the lawyer was Eric MacLeish, whom they met with earlier. Finishing his interview, Patrick is now determined to expose priests who molest kids and says they can use his name if they want.
Back at the Spotlight, everybody compares notes. Sacha realizes MacLeish has settled cases with a bunch of priests. They now have a list of four priests in the city who have molested kids. Mike gets in contact with Sipe, the former priest, on the phone. He is told it's not just a few bad apples molesting kids but that it is a psychiatric phenomenon. Mike explains to Robby later what he was told -- they all target kids from low income families with absentee fathers, in need of attention. They don't target boys because they're gay but because their actual sexuality has no basis on molesting kids; it's a form of power control. Sipe has learned of dozens of molesting priests over the years but when he went public, the church smeared him. Mike and Robby make their way to the basement where Matt has pulled the annual directories listing all the priests in Boston. The directories show where every priest is in a given year -- in one directory, Geoghan is listed as being on sick leave. They check the '91 directory for the year another priest was accused of molestation. He is also listed as being on sick leave. They realize it's an official designation by the church when someone is being moved after being caught molesting kids. Upstairs, they look through the directories and see "emergency response" and "sick leave" listed for all the molesting priests they know about.
Marty is visited in his office by a critic who tells him that reporting on the church story could lose them a lot of subscribers. Marty realizes this is why he was invited to a Catholic Charities Gala. Sacha and Robby meet with Eric MacLeish again who won't talk about the cases he settled against the priest that molested Joe, the effeminate victim Sacha met with. They mention other cases and Sacha asks why there aren't any records. Eric tells them he dealt directly with the church, that it was a private mediation. Back in the office, Sacha realizes there's no paper trail because the victim had to sign a confidentiality agreement to get the settlement. Everything was done under the table and the lawyer gets his fee from the church who then maintains their clean image by washing the crime clean. Because Eric was confirmed to have defended the priests that molested the victims they were connected to through Saviano, it gives him credibility. They're now looking at seven or eight priests they can discuss in their story.
Marty and Robby attend a gala run by the Catholic Church. Robby was invited by a friend from the high school he went to, which is across the street from the Globe. They are surrounded by powerful people in the Catholic Church and meet two of them, Jack Dunn and Peter Conley. Robby tells Marty that when they were investigating one of the priests a decade earlier, Cardinal Law called down the wrath of God on them and one of their editors broke his leg skiing days later. Jim Sullivan, the lawyer who defended priests in the past, greets Robby at the bar. Robby mentions how Eric MacLeish admitted to settling cases with the Archdiocese out of court, quietly, with cash and a handshake. Robby asks how many priests Jim has represented but Jim says he can't answer that because it's unethical. Robby tells Jim that he should want to be on the right side of this.
On the same night, Mike meets with Garabedian for dinner and is told that one of his clients filed a criminal complaint but the Church stepped in to protect Geoghan, using their friends like Eric MacLeish. Garabedian mentions it took an outsider at the Globe -- Marty, the new Jewish editor -- to break a story. He tells Mike that it takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to abuse one.
At the Globe the next day, Sacha realizes there are several of the same terms that the directories uses when a priest is inexplicably removed from his parish. Richard Sipe, the former priest, calls in and Mike puts him on speakerphone. Sipe tells them that only 50% of the Catholic clergy practice celibacy, which creates a culture of secrecy -- covering up sex between consensual adults which extends over to covering up pedophiles. He continues, telling them that in 1985, a secretary canonist warned that pedophile priests would be a billion dollar liability for the Catholic Church. Sipe estimates that 6% of all Catholic priests molest minors out of sexual frustration because of their enforced celibacy as well as their secret shame of being homosexual or being a pedophile. Out of the 1,500 priests in Boston, that means at least 90 priests would be molesting kids. Robby suggests they use the directories to look up any priests listed as being on "sick leave" or "absent on leave" or "unassigned"--code for priests being sent to church-run treatment centers. These same priests are moved from parish to parish every few years. The reporters all begin working on compiling a list of names with these designations.
The entire team works tirelessly on scanning the directories. At home, Matt realizes one of the "treatment centers" is a house around the corner from his home. He goes outside and stares at the house, flabbergasted. He puts a sign on his refrigerator telling his kids to stay away from the house and the men who live there.
At the office, they've finally compiled all their data into a spreadsheet. They have a list of 87 priests that the directory seems to suggest are molesting kids, right in line with the six percent of priests that Sipe suggested. Robby calls Jim Sullivan and asks him if there are as many as 90 priests that have been caught molesting kids in Boston. Jim tells him he has to stop this. Matt enters Robby's office and tells him that he discovered some of the molesters living near his home and asked him whether he can tell the neighbors about their findings. Robby tells him they'll tell them soon.
Robby meets with Eric MacLeish, telling him he has a list of 87 priests that are potential child molesters. He needs to know which ones Eric has settled cases for (to verify their crimes since the directories are circumstantial). Robby threatens Eric that there are two stories -- one about the clergy covering for priests and the other about lawyers who spent ten years profiting off of sex scandals, never going public with the dozens of priests that were molesting young boys and girls. Eric agrees to help but says that he actually told the Globe about it years earlier and they buried the story. At the Globe, Sacha gets new clips and finds something very interesting -- a clip that confirms that MacLeish did give them a heads up years earlier.
At the Globe, Robby reveals that MacLeish has shared a list of 46 priests he represented, along with some victims' names. Some of the victims of the eight they were told about by Saviano have agreed to go on record. Marty is concerned about Law, referencing Robby's story about how he called down the wrath of God after their past report. He wonders why he had such an extreme reaction when they reported on a single priest in the 1990s, given that the priest was elsewhere in Massachusetts. Robby suggests Law had to know there were others and it was a bigger story -- even bigger than 50 priests. They suspect that the Church manipulated the system so the priests wouldn't face charges; that reporting on the molestations won't get a public reaction (they seem like isolated incidents) but showing that the cover-ups came from the top will.
Ben pulls Mike and Robby in his office. He is worried that Cardinal Law is going to bully them if they run a story, which could tank their paper. They have to take Law down in a way that he won't be able to recover from and he won't be able to smear them. That night, Sacha is leaving and shares with Robby the clip that she found, confirming MacLeish's story. Robby looks it over but has no response.
The entire group begins to investigate policemen who were involved in the arresting of the priests and how the church covered it up with bribes and/or intimidation (including the cop on duty in the film's opener). Back at the office, Matt asks Robby if he knows of a Father Talbot at BC High. He remembers him from when he went there. He is given a printout about him.
Mike is in court watching the case the Globe is filing against the church to unseal documents. The Catholic judge seems antagonistic to the Globe. The church's lawyer accuses them of just wanting to sell papers and Mr. Garabedian just wants to help his cases. Outside, Garabedian tells Mike that a priest discovered Geoghan was molesting boys in 1962 but when he told the Bishop, he was threatened into silence. Then, 30 years later, when he read about Geoghan molesting hundreds of boys, he felt guilty and called Garabedian, who asked the priest to come in and sit for a deposition on having given the church a heads up. But when he showed up, he was with the same lawyer attacking the Globe in court that day. Now the priest states he has a foggy memory and negates his claim that he told his superiors. A year earlier, Garabedian found an article from a local paper, revealing the priest finally went to the press to tell them about being silenced by officials in the 1960's. Now that he had him on record, he has a good reason to talk to him again. But when he filed a motion to depose him, the church's lawyer filed a motion opposing his motion. However, this allowed Garabedian to make an argument why he should be allowed to depose the priest and he's able to present the documents that have been sealed earlier. These 14 documents prove everything -- about the church, the bishops, Cardinal Law and now it's all public, in his case. But if Mike goes into a courtroom and tries to retrieve them, he'll find they are missing because the Church had them removed. Garabedian tells Mike to check the docket. Mike does and sure enough, the exhibits folder is empty.
Mike calls Robby and tells him about the documents. He says that if the Globe's lawyer files a motion (for the lawsuit against the church), the judge will order Garabedian to refile the documents.
The next morning, everyone is gathered around a TV. It is September 11, 2001 and they are watching the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC unfold on the news. Later, Cardinal Law is on TV, giving a speech about praying for the nation. Ben orders the Spotlight team to stop their story so they can focus on 9/11 -- the only story that could derail them from their larger investigation. Mike is sent away to Florida to investigate the flight school that trained the pilot of the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. He calls Garabedian and begs him not to refile the documents until he returns. Once he does, they'll be public record and another newspaper can break the story without all of the information they've uncovered. Garabedian says he can't make any promises.
Robby meets with Saviano to tell him they've been taken off the story because the country needs the church at this time. Saviano points out he needed the church at one point and that a lot of people relived painful experiences in an effort to expose the crimes. He threatens to take the story to the Herald. Sacha calms him down by telling him they're not abandoning the story, she's met with too many survivors and their families to not tell the story -- but they need to tell it right and need a few more weeks. This calms Saviano down.
In Florida, Mike gets a call from Robby who tells him that Garabedian refiled the docs. He is then told Marty has been put back on the story because of this; Mike flies back to Boston that afternoon.
Robby visits the high school he went to and talks to the principal about the seven victims that have come forth about being molested by Father Talbot there. It is clear to Robby that the Brothers in charge must have known about the crimes because of how tightly run everything was. Jack Dunn and Peter Conley, who Robby met at the Catholic gala, are there, defending the school. But the schools president says that if he was on board at the time, he would have done something. He admits that they must have known since they sent Father Talbot out of town after he was caught. Robby is told by Jack that the presidents statement is off the record. Outside, Robby points out to Jack that both of them were athletes while Father Talbot was a coach at the school. They escaped molestation by pure luck. Robby notes that the Boston Globe is directly across the street from where these crimes took place.
Mike gets to the courthouse and tries to get the documents. The clerk is standoffish and asks him if he knows what's he's retrieving. He is then told because of their sensitive nature, he must meet with a judge upstairs. He rushes up there and is given permission. When he gets back down and finally gets the documents, he's told he can't take them out of the building. He says he's going to make copies but is told the copy room closed at 4 PM. He then gives the clerk $83 in his pocket in exchange for using their personal copier.
The documents reveal the church knew about the molestations based on letters written to Cardinal Law and how he demanded the victims' families keep silent. Another letter is from an auxiliary bishop who broke ranks, acknowledging Geoghan has a history of homosexual involvement with young boys, in an attempt to find some solution beyond a mild punishment of weekend work. Mike wants to write up the story but Robby tells him to hold off -- that there are 90 other cases out there and they need to get more evidence corroborating them to tell the bigger story. Mike is furious, worried that the Herald is going to steal the story before them and butcher it -- he is adamant that they nail the scumbags and they need to print the story to show the Church that they can't get away with what they've done.
Mike finds Sacha at home. He asks her if she's ever thought of going back to church. She says she has attended with her grandmother but it's hard with all the things they now know. Mike mentions, growing up Catholic, it's hard to abandon it completely but after reading those letters, his faith collapsed.
Robby meets up with Peter Conley in a hotel bar. Peter complains about Marty and says running the story will lose them subscribers. He tells Robby he doesn't want his career to be ended and him forever to be known as the guy who brought down the Globe. He writes the entire story off as being just a few bad apples. Robby realizes this is how the Church operates they have one guy lean on someone and the entire town looks the other way.
At the Spotlight office the next day, Robby is told that Sweeney ruled in favor of the Globe to unseal the documents. The church has filed an appeal but the trial court is almost always upheld in manners like this. The documents will probably be released in mid-January, around the time Geoghan's trial begins. Ben and the Globes editor want to make their success against the Catholic Church a big story, focusing on a first amendment victory, but Robby doesn't want to alert the Herald of the story. Mike and Robby now tell Marty and Ben how some of the documents have already become public due to Garabedian slipping them into a public motion; these documents prove Law knew about the molestations in the 80s. Ben is upset that they didn't release the story but Robby tells him that the church covering up molestation has been going on for decades, even before Law, and the court covered it up. They think they can write everything up in two weeks but suspect it will be a poor move to publish the story during the first Christmas season after September 11th. They decide to run it right after New Years Day 2002, shortly before the Geoghan trial begins. Marty now tells the editor to bury the Globe's victory over the church in the metro section.
The Spotlight team steps up their story. Mike begins writing. The team continues meeting with victims, priests, judges. The wife of a priest yells at Sacha when she asks to speak with him. The sister of a victim is also hostile. But Sacha also gets to speak to someone who is happy to talk. The team is getting quotes from various sources. Robby visits Jim Sullivan at his house, led in by Jim's wife. Robby tells Jim they're running out of time. He tells him they've got the cover-up stories of 75 priests but they need a solid confirmation from him because he represented them. He tells Jim he has to choose what side he's on. Jim tells Robby hes out of line but Robby responds that the entire city is out of line lawyers, politicians, cops. Everybody is looking the other way but Jim can put an end to it. Jim gets riled up, says that he defended the scumbags but it was his job to. He points out the Globe had a lot of information that could have alerted them to the story but they never did any investigating so they're just as guilty as everyone else. Jim kicks Robby out of his home. But as he walks to his car, Jim runs to him, still angry, but asks for the list. Jim reads it over and then circles every single name, verifying them as clients he once represented.
Through Jack Dunn, Mike is able to make an offer to Law to defend himself in the Globe in a full page, unedited response. But later, he visits Marty and Ben to tell them that Law turned the offer down and the Archdiocese spokeswoman says they don't even want to know what the questions are. This gives them enough of a quote for their story The church had no interest in knowing what the Globes questions would be. Ben wonders about manning the phones come Sunday morning given all the attention the story will get; Robby tells him Matt and Sacha will be there working on a piece and they'll have a tip line listed where people can call with more information. Ben wants to hire extra staff to man the phones at reception, remembering the protests from the last story about a molesting priest. He's also concerned about picketers and angry letters. Robby mentions Jim confirming all the priests they suspected as being involved. He has been rattled by Tim's comment that the Globe should have caught it sooner. Ben tells him the story needed Spotlight since no singular reporter could have broken it. But Robby is still upset he was one of the reporters in the department that ran the story years earlier (i.e. the clip that Sacha gave to him) and he never thought to investigate it further. Marty tells them all to forgive their past sins because they need to prepare for Laws backlash after the story is published. As hard as they've worked over the last six months, they're going to have to work even harder from this point on.
The team leaves for the night, content with all of their work. Mike stops by Garabedian's office and gives him an early look at the paper. When he leaves, he sees a mother and two children in a waiting room; the mother is fingering rosary beads. Its a callback to the opening scene at the police station with a mother in a waiting room with her kids. Garabedian tells Mike that both boys were abused weeks earlier and encourages Mike to keep doing his work.
Sipe calls Mike about the story. Mike asks him how hes able to continue to believe in something after all he knows. Sipe says he still needs his faith; the church is an institution of men and even well-meaning men fail. The papers are printed, come off the presses, are transported around the city by trucks. They end up on doorsteps, in living rooms. The headline on the front page Church Allowed Abuse by Priest for Years. Matt takes a copy of the paper and drops it on the doorstep of the house where the molesting priest lives.
Sunday morning, Matt is looking out his window. He notes that there aren't any protesters. His colleague suggests they're still at church. Robby finds Mike in the parking lot, even though its their day off. They want to go inside and get a sense of the response they're getting.
Inside, the main receptionist is bored, saying its the easiest overtime she's made because nobody is calling their phone lines. She mentions that she had to send people down in the Spotlight office to help out Matt and Sacha. Mike and Robby rush down to the office. Phones are ringing off the hook. After getting off a call, Matt tells them they're getting tons of response, almost all positive and many from victims who have more tips. Matt suggests Robby and Mike help out. Mike answers a phone.
The ending titles indicate that the cover-ups were revealed to have extended far beyond Massachusetts which led all the way to Vatican City. Hundreds of U.S. cities as listed as having similar scandals. Then dozens of countries are listed (Ireland, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, etc), as well, where the abuse also extended to.