‘Spotlight” is a movie about journalism. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

It tells the true story of how a team of editors and reporters at the Boston Globe connected “isolated incidents” of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests into a 2002 series of stories that exposed an institution more concerned with protecting its reputation than it was in protecting children.

The movie shows reporters who run down leads and pore over documents. Editors have vision and guts. Stories get banged out on deadline, presses roll and the world changes.

It had to be a movie about journalism because movies are stories and stories have an ending.

It’s not that way for the survivors of child sex abuse, who can spend their whole lives trying to get back what had been stolen from them. The rest of us may get smarter and vow not to make the same mistakes, but their pain is forever.

So that’s why, I guess, when the credits filled the screen at the end of the movie, I found myself sobbing.


Back in 2002 and 2003, a big part of my life was interviewing survivors of sexual abuse by priests in Maine.

Like many other newspapers, we at the Press Herald started asking questions after the Globe stories hit. Could anything like that have happened here? Then-reporter John Richardson and I were told to dig around.

As the Globe reporters in the film found, a lot of the evidence was waiting for us. One of our best sources turned out to be our own archives. People had been telling us for years that it was a rotten system, not just a few bad apples, and we hadn’t heard them.

One was David Gagnon.

In the 1990s, 10 years before the Globe stories, he violated a confidentiality agreement with the church to publicly name himself as a victim of a priest who was later identified as the Rev. Michael Doucette, a former assistant priest at St. Andre’s parish in Biddeford.

Gagnon, who is now 50 and living in Canada, said memories of what happened to him are never far away.


He struggles to maintain relationships. His anger is triggered by anything that looks like abuse of authority.

His self-confidence is fragile, and recurring depression is a fact of life.

He attributes all of these things to the three years of sexual abuse he suffered when he was a teenager.

“It’s like being a bird stuck in oil,” Gagnon said this week. “Even if you can get help and get free, there is always going to be a heaviness in flight.”

Gagnon’s case had elements that we saw again and again in our reporting.

He said Doucette would find ways to be alone with the then-15-year-old and make sexual advances. “He told me ‘this is what friends do,’ ” Gagnon later recalled. The teenager was constantly frightened, confused and guilty.


All the time, Doucette was treated like a celebrity in the Gagnon home. Gagnon’s parents were thrilled that a priest was taking interest in their son, and Doucette was given a key to the house.

“We’d come home and he’d be waiting for us to cook him dinner,” Gagnon said.

When Doucette was transferred to a parish in Aroostook County, the Gagnon family went to visit him, where the abuse continued. In 1991, Gagnon told his devastated parents what had happened. They went to the police, but too much time had passed to charge Doucette with a crime. They went to the church, and they were assured that it would not happen again. Then Doucette was sent to a clinic for six months and returned to work.

In 1993, Gagnon began to speak out publicly in violation of a confidentiality agreement the church had him sign.

Members of the parish – even some members of his extended family – didn’t believe him and sided with the priest.

“The media were not kind,” Gagnon said. “The church made me jump through absurd hoops to get counseling. Many people still don’t get it.”


In some ways, Gagnon had been lucky. He had two parents who believed and supported him. They founded the Maine chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), the organization that played such an important role in the Boston revelations.

Every time his story is told, Gagnon says other victims come forward. Often they are people who did not have the support he had when he started telling the world about what first Doucette, and then the church, had wanted him to keep secret.

He hasn’t seen “Spotlight” yet, but he expects that it will inspire others to come forward and tell their stories, which means that there are others out there who have been carrying the same pain in silence.

“Spotlight” is a great movie about journalists and has an inspiring ending.

But for the survivors, the pain never goes away and the story doesn’t end.


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