Finding morality in the movie Spotlight


Morals are a tricky thing. They change from culture to culture, person to person and even morph into something new as the days, hours and minutes tick by. When it comes to defining morality, I’ll stick to what is known as Divine Command Theory. According to DCT, what is moral and immoral is essentially controlled by a heavenly body—a heavenly body that answers to no one other than itself.

There are two ways to consider morality when it comes to DCT. One, are certain actions moral because they are commanded by a heavenly body? And two, are certain actions right because a heavenly body allowed them?

These two questions are often called the Euthyphro Problem, but boiled down to its most basic form it begs the question of should we judge past actions based upon the morals of today?


In the movie Spotlight, there are numerous instances where the actions of the journalists are morally ambiguous for its time. The moral actions are many and tend to be some of the more overarching story lines. The Boston Globe investigated reports of child sex abuse done by the Catholic Church and found there was not only systemic and routine abuse taking place, but that there were orders coming from the top to cover up the allegations and to reassign the predator priests to different areas.

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The Globe used its clout to get influential lawyers to leak them names of the priests and the paper didn’t just print the story of known and covered up abuses right away—they held back and went after the top figures who enabled the predator priests to prey upon the children of their congregation.

However, upon viewing the film there are multiple instances where the morality of the journalists involved become a bit skewed. First, Ben Bradlee Jr. questions if the paper should go after the Catholic Church at all given the power the Church has over the Boston community. Other editors and even the publisher share the same reservations and wonder aloud how the readership will view the paper if it decides to take the Church to court.

Although the paper exposed the trauma that these victims of the priests experienced, the paper still nonetheless profited off of the selling of their stories. But it is hard to fault the paper for such actions because of the need to turn a profit just to keep the paper afloat.

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The Spotlight reporters also held back on notifying their neighbors of the predator priests in their community. This was done to protect the investigation of the Church as a whole and to give the reporters more time to show how the top officials in the Church knew about what was going on and did little to stop it.

I think the actions of the Globe overall weigh out to the moral side of the DCT because of the overall good their reporting did for their community. The reporters were able to expose the predator priests sexually abuses children in the area and showed how those in charge only enabled the abuse to continue.

3 thoughts on “Finding morality in the movie Spotlight

  1. Freddy,
    Really great post discussing the issues of moral reporting per the Spotlight story. What if the story had been published before the journalists could prove everything via the church’s own published data? What if someone at Spotlight had caught the story when they were first given the information many years earlier (a point brought up again and again in the film)? Were the various hesitations appropriate? Would the public, as readers, have found the story believable had the Globe NOT been a highly profitable (thus highly regarded) news entity in the community?
    I agree fully with your conclusion: from what we learned in the film, the reporters worked within an ethic and legal framework in order to fully expose—and legitimize—a horrendous crime that infiltrated the city—and the world. The end result allows for acceptance of their methods and decisions. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed your discussion of the journalists, rather than a focus on the church. Your comment about the paper profiting off of these victims stories was very thought provoking. That is not something I had thought about. I think you are right, though. It’s hard to be upset about their profits for the story when the story needed to be told.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The head honchos for sure showed questionable traits when it came to handling the outcry of crimes committed by priests around Boston. I get there’s a sense of feeling powerless when an entire community or religious figures tell you to drop it. When 9/11 occurred I sarcastically thought “there goes the story” because in a nation that’s mourning after an impactful terrorist attack, spirituality is the key to healing so bringing forth a story against religious figures would only have a negative impact. I don’t think integrity was taken into consideration when it came to postponing the release of the stories.

    Liked by 1 person

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