Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivor Reacts to ‘Spotlight’ Win, Existing Epidemic

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

By Priscilla Liguori 3/7/2016

Clergy sexual abuse survivor David O’Regan cried tears of joy when Spotlight won Best Picture at the 88th Academy Awards.

“Spotlight is going to live on. Hopefully, the spotlight is going to keep shining on the darkness of the Church that has allowed children’s souls to be destroyed for far too long,” said O’Regan.

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

O’Regan said the movie’s win will fuel him to continue doing the difficult work he completes for sexual abuse survivors. He is the Boston and Worcester leader of SNAP: Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“Spotlight won but the scandal continues,” O’Regan warned.

Since Spotlight first premiered, O’Regan has received phone calls from 19 people coming forward about clergy sexual abuse for the first time.

“I take calls from survivors all the time. Survivors in distress, survivors whose memories are just coming back to them, and they’re experiencing once again the trauma of their childhood abuse,” said O’Regan.

The film Spotlight portrays the Boston Globe’s investigation that uncovered widespread sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. O’Regan said the movie is encouraging a new wave of survivors from all around the world to come forward.

Spotlight is also making bystanders more aware of abuse, according to O’Regan. He said had heard from people who knew to report suspicious behavior because they saw the movie.

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

O’Regan said the Church preaches that it will end the problem but has not done anything to do so.

“When the church teaches new tolerance, I choke. I absolutely choke,” said O’Regan.

Since Pope Francis entered the papacy in 2013, he created a special commission to study clergy sexual abuse and a tribunal to hold those who cover up abuse accountable.

“They haven’t even named anybody to be on this tribunal. Is anybody actually going to be called in?” asked O’Regan.

O’Regan said that when Pope Francis came to America last year and praised the bishops, it was another dagger to his back.

“He should have been asking bishops one by one to stand up remove your hat and walk out. He should have dismissed them. They are a disgrace. They’re the ones who allow this problem to continue to this very day,” said O’Regan.

In a training session for Bishops around the world this past fall, French Monsignor Tony Anatrella told bishops that they didn’t have to report clergy sexual abuse to law enforcement. A report by the Boston Globe’s John Allen said that Bishops were barely trained on what to do with sexual abuse cases, and only given vague direction. This past Monday, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors released a statement saying bishops should indeed report abuse.

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Still, O’Regan said that “even good priests are afraid to speak up” about sexual abuse because of repercussions and punishments from the Church.

Fr. John Gallagher said he was locked out of his patriarchal house at Holy Name of Jesus Christ in West Palm Beach, Florida and sent back to his native country Ireland. He heard visiting priest Fr. Jose Palimattom was grooming a young boy and told the Sherriff’s office that the incident was caught on a surveillance camera.

The Diocese of Palm Beach released a statement saying Gallagher was released for unrelated reasons.

“We really need a federal investigation into the Roman Catholic church,” said O’Regan.

O’Regan insists for people who learn about abuse or who are abused to go to the police and not the Church.

“Go to the police and let the police know what you saw and let them do a proper investigation,” said O’Regan.

O’Regan’s email is He encourages survivors to reach out to him so that he and the SNAP community can assist them in their healing process.

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

Mitchell Garabedian Says Clergy Sexual Abuse Remains a Rampant Issue