By Priscilla Liguori 2/20/2016
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian said clergy sexual abuse remains a rampant problem across the world, including in Boston.
“Boston still is the hub of clergy sexual abuse. Clients are coming forward to me,” Garabedian revealed.
The Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigative team uncovered widespread sexual abuse and cover ups in the Roman Catholic Church fifteen years ago. The film Spotlight portrays the team’s investigation.
“I believe the Church is acting cosmetically. They haven’t changed their attitude one iota,” Garabedian said.
The Law Offices of Mitchell Garabedian’s website lists 157 sexual predators who were employees of the Catholic Church, many of whom are from Boston. Garabedian said thousands of priests molested tens of thousands of children and thousands of supervisors covered it up.
Cardinal Archbishop Sean O’Malley has released statements asking for forgiveness, talking about commitment to a zero tolerance policy, saying he has met with survivors, and calling Spotlight a powerful and important film.
Garabedian thinks Cardinal Archbishop O’Malley’s words are kind, but not reflective in his actions.
“The Archdiocese of Boston under Cardinal O’Malley are scrutinizing claims more than ever and re-victimizing victims more than ever with more stringent attitudes towards whether a priest abused a victim or a survivor. I think that’s cruel and mean and I think it reflects that the Church only cares about itself,” Garabedian said.
Spotlight picks up Garabedian about three years into his work on clergy sexual abuse cases.
The attorney was impressed with how actor Stanley Tucci portrayed him in the movie. Garabedian said Tucci accurately portrayed how it took a village to abuse a child.
“It was very powerful in the way he stated that and the way he drove that message home…that Boston was a closed shop, a closed society, a closed community, and this was a dirty little secret that had been going on for decades and it needed outsiders to reveal that secret,” Garabedian said.
Garabedian explained that when Boston Globe reporter Michael Rezendes approached him, he needed to make sure he wasn’t really on the Church’s side, which tried to have him sanctioned and eventually disbarred. Garabedian also needed to gain the trust of the Spotlight team through solid evidence.
“When I first met the reporters, they were wondering if I was for real, and I was wondering if they were just a show for the Church. So it took us a while to get to know each other and work together,” Garabedian said.
Victims and survivors need recognition and validation, according to Garabedian. He wants the Church to release revealing documentation about sexual abuse at the Vatican and across the world.
Most of all, he wants the Church to learn so that children are not abused in the future.
“Allow a truly independent organization to examine what you’ve done wrong. You have to hold masses and apologize to victims and survivors in many different ways whether it be through asking for forgiveness, meeting with them, planning, or having proposals, putting them on boards to prevent clergy sexual abuse,” suggested Garabedian.
Garabedian said that victims of sexual abuse often feel like they are the only ones abused, no one will believe them, and the abuse was their fault. He said Spotlight is strengthening victims and making the world a safer place for children.
“I constantly get calls from victims who have seen the movie who can’t previously come forward who feel more empowered or who are coming forward for the first time because the movie is giving them courage,” Garabedian said.
The attorney has represented victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse in at least 14 countries for decades. He is often asked how he continues in such a difficult fight against a powerful institution. His answer remains the same.
“How could you not do this? You have helpless children who are being sexually molested week after week after week after week. Their lives are turned into absolute turmoil, inside out,” Garabedian said. “This is a no brainer. We have to help children.”
Garabedian described representing victims and survivors to be humbling. He plans to keep fighting and representing victims and survivors to help them regain their dignity.
“Victims and survivors need a voice. If I can help give them that voice, I’m eternally grateful for that. I’d like to thank victims and survivors for allowing me to represent them. It’s an honor,” Garabedian said.
More Spotlight Coverage:
“Spotlight” Won, But the Debate About the Catholic Church Continues
Editor Walter Robinson Reflects on Impact of “Spotlight”
Michael Rezendes Discusses Spotlight Portrayal, Changes in the Church