Empowering victims of abuse would help prevent future crimes, Archbishop Charles Scicluna said yesterday in reaction to the release of a film about the cover-up of clerical abuse in Boston.

The lessons learnt by the Church should help others in the clampdown on sexual abuse, Mgr Scicluna said when asked for a comment about Spotlight, which is tipped for Oscar success.

The film, which started being screened in Maltese cinemas yesterday, tells the story of the 2002 investigation by the Boston Globe into the cover-up of clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston.

The scandal had shaken the Catholic Church to its core and pushed the issue of sexual abuse of children into the limelight. The newspaper’s coverage had encouraged other victims to come forward.

“Disclosure of abuse is the best service that one can render the Church and society, because only the truth will set us free. The empowerment of victims should be at the heart of every effort to address past crimes and help prevent ­­­future ones,” the Archbishop said.

Starring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, the movie is set for global release in the coming weeks.

Disclosure of abuse is the best service one can render the Church and society

Director Tom Mc Carthy has insisted it is not an attack on the Church. In an interview with the Catholic Herald, he expressed hope that the movie transcended this particular case and spoke of other institutions where “bad things” were happening.

Clarifying that he had not seen the movie, Mgr Scicluna noted that sexual abuse was widespread.

“Unfortunately sexual abuse plagues all strata of society. What the Catholic Church has learnt should also help others reflect and act,” he said. Mgr Scicluna had been nominated Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2002 – the same year of the Boston Globe coverage.

He had told The Sunday Times of Malta in 2010 that this meant he prosecuted in cases concerning the dignity of the sacrament of the Eucharist, of penance and sexual abuse of minors by priests.

His role was to oversee investigations carried out directly by the Congregation and to prosecute in cases referred to its tribunal.

Meanwhile, the allegations featured in Spotlight are similar to a fresh civil case in the UK instituted by alleged victims of abuse who decades ago were pupils at a church school in the North West of England.

They are taking their former diocese to court following allegations of an institutional cover-up and their lawyers hope that the positivity that has met Spotlight’s release will help give other victims the strength to come forward.