Every Catholic bishop should watch 'Spotlight', says former Vatican sex abuse prosecutor

Actors Billy Crudup, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Michael Keaton, Brian d'Arcy James and Mark Ruffalo (L to R) pose backstage with their award for Outstanding Performance in a Motion Picture for the film "Spotlight" at the 22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, California.Reuters

All bishops and cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church should watch the film Spotlight, according to the Church's former main prosecutor in child sex abuse cases against priests.

Archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna said: "All bishops and cardinals must see this film, especially those in charge of souls, because they have to understand that it is the complaint that will save the Church, not the conspiracy of silence."

Spotlight shows the investigation by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team between 2001 and 2002 into clerical sex abuse in the US city, and how the team overcame numerous attempts to cover it up. 

"The movie shows how the instinct – that unfortunately was present in the Church – to protect a reputation was completely wrong," Archbishop Scicluna  told La Repubblica after a showing of the film in Valletta, Malta.

Before moving to Malta, first as an auxiliary, Scicluna, aged 56, worked in Rome for 10 years, handling sex abuse accusations against priests.

Priests caught in a shaft of sunlight during the ordination ceremony of Charles Scicluna as Bishop of Malta at St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta November 2012. He was appointed Archbishop of Malta in February last year.Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

In December 2002, Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston, resigned and moved to Rome.

The investigation uncovered 249 priests accused of abuse. By 2008, nearly 1,500 victims were known about.

Scicluna said: "The numbers are impressive. But the strength of this film is not the numbers, but one key word: omertà (silence). The film shows how the instinct, which was unfortunately present, to protect the Church's good name, was totally wrong. There can be no mercy without justice."

In the middle of the film, the journalist heading the investigation, Walter Robinson, played by Michael Keaton, says it takes a whole village to raise a child, and a whole village to abuse one.

Scicluna said: "The child is being abused by an adult, in this case by a priest, of course. But offenders are also those who know and do not speak."

He also recalled that four months after the Globe began publishing its stories, the then Pope, Benedict XVI, summoned all US cardinals and told them: "There is no place in the priesthood and religious life for priests or religious who abuse minors."

He said it was the beginning of a new era for the Church, and that he believed in God's mercy for all, even the guilty, but the basis of mercy in justice was truth.