A “Spotlight” of Divinity and Lasped Faith

Every Oscar season, I, as many film fans do, try my best to watch every Best Picture nominee in the run-up to the awards. In 2016, after deep dives into the technicolor wasteland of
Mad Max: Fury Road, the realistic terror of Room, and seeing a bear beat the pulp out of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, it was Spotlight that got the biggest reaction out of me. I watched this film with my mom, a Catholic in lapse, who raised me into Catholicism as well.

We got furious. We were saddened. Something we had devoted time and energy into had become the monster sweeping such a scandal under the rug. My anger and fury came back into the fold upon re-watching the film for this class to relate to Divine Command theory, a theory I never heard about till this week.

This theory, as defined by Crash Course Philosophy, is “the belief that what’s moral, and what’s immoral is commanded by the divine.” Basically, if God commands it, then we must follow what He commands. Yet, that is difficult to define because how do we know what He commands? We only have the Ten Commandments set in stone. It used to be fifteen, but was boiled down to ten (if History of the World, Part I is anything to go by).

Joking aside, it leads to two horns of thought born from the Euthyphro Problem. Horn one basically distilled to what right is right due to God alone make goodness. Horn two says God is not the only definer, but is influenced by value not created by him. He just likes to use value to his benefit. Yet, the fallacies in both are startling as it basically means everything he commands can change on a dime or may not have any weight to it if there is an outside source.


THE GLOBE COMES TO LIGHT – L to R: The Spotlight team of Sacha Pfieffer (Rachel McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Matt Caroll (Brian d’Arcy James), and Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) discuss their finding with Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery)

This theory and the fallacies lead to a dilemma within collecting my thoughts for the film Spotlight. No matter what I write, I must address my own belief in God and my own morals. One part that sticks into me to this day is when Sacha Pfieffer interviews Father Ronald Paquin. She asks about how he molested several boys. “Yes, I did but I got no pleasure out of it,” Paquin responds. Pfeiffer is surprised at his willing admission to this and when she poses the question of why he feels there is nothing wrong with it, he replies simply with “I was raped.”

It is implied that Paquin himself was molested and raped by someone in the church before him, yet feels that it is the norm. This quote adds to what is said by Richard Sipe about this being a “recognizable psychiatric problem.” These acts are honestly inexcusable and repulsive. No God would ever accept what was done or committed. Even those of values know this is wrong, and if God does work with value, then He himself would be furious as we all were.

I still am.

4 thoughts on “A “Spotlight” of Divinity and Lasped Faith

  1. A marvelous, brave, poignant exploration of Divine Command and the movie “Spotlight.” Your perspective from the Catholic upbringing is expressed so well — your own sadness and fury in learning about the institution’s own role in covering up what can’t possibly be excused as moral. Your conclusion is an apt one — a God you’d understand as “good” would not accept these abusive acts: “He himself would be furious as we all were.”
    Fabulous writing, Sergio. Much gratitude.


  2. I was raised Catholic too. I understand your anger, I was horrified that an institution I’d been raised to trust could excuse something so terrible. I’ll never understand how anyone could believe God would condone the abuse of children. It’s absolutely disgusting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sergio! This was a great post. I’m glad to have the perspective of someone raised catholic on the issue of sexual abuse in the catholic church. I think it’s interesting that you used divine command theory against the catholic church, saying that “No God would ever accept what was done or committed.” It’s kinda like you’re beating them at their own game.

    Liked by 1 person

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