Child abuse is a gay problem says Vatican Secretary of State
The Vatican’s Secretary of State – No. 2 to the Pope himself – has suggested the paedophilia crisis engulfing the Catholic Church is linked to homosexuality, not priests’ celibacy.
During a press conference in Chile, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone also insisted that the church has never stymied investigation of priests accused of paedophilia.
”Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and paedophilia,” the cardinal said. ”But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”
The cardinal’s remarks have sparked a storm of controversy in Italy as well as Chile, where they were strongly criticised by politicians and medical experts, who accused the Secretary of State of ”vast generalisations”.
Senator Juan Antonio Coloma, president of the right-wing Independent Democratic Union, told the Chilean newspaper La Nacion that while he understood the claims were made in good faith, they were generalisations that could not be sustained.
Senator Patricio Walker of the Christian Democrats categorically disagreed with the comments. ”Paedophilia is a mental and sexual abnormality that affects both heterosexuals and homosexuals,” he said.
”I would like to see what studies he is talking about because I would find it fairly surprising to see evidence for these claims.”
Cardinal Bertone’s comments follow a series of claims from senior Vatican and Catholic officials over the past few weeks that the charges of clerical abuse and their cover-up by the church that have emerged in Europe, the US, Ireland and Australia are a product of media gossip and exaggeration.
Rolando Jimenez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in Chile, said no reputable study exists to support Monsignor Bertone’s comments.
In Italy, Aurelio Mancuso, former president of the gay rights association, Arcigay, said: ”The truth is that Bertone is clumsily trying to shift attention to homosexuality and away from the focus on new crimes against children that emerge every day.”
The Pope’s press secretary, Federico Lombardi, said the pontiff might consider a private meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse in Malta during a visit there next weekend. But he said the Pope should not be pressured by the media and should be given the space to listen to and communicate with the victims.
Newspapers in Chile reported that the most prominent paedophiles uncovered in the Chilean church attacked young girls and made a teenager pregnant.
The archbishop of Santiago at the time was shown to have received multiple complaints about Father Jose Andres Aguirre from the families of the young girls. But the priest was allowed to continue serving at several Catholic girls’ schools. The church later moved Aguirre out of Chile twice and he was finally sentenced to 12 years in prison for abusing 10 teenage girls.
In La Nacion, one of the young women, identified only as Paula, said she had been abused between the ages of 16 and 20. She said when she told other priests at confession, they simply told her to pray but ”everyone looked the other way. No one corrected or helped me”.
The Associated Press reported that she said one of the priests she confessed to about her sex with Aguirre was Francisco Jose Cox, who had been bishop in La Serena, in northern Chile, for several years but was removed in 1997 amid rumours he was a paedophile and transferred to Santiago, then Rome, then Colombia and finally Germany.
The Schoenstatt movement, a worldwide lay community within the Catholic Church, is reported to have paid for his transfers as well as ”treatment”. He was finally removed for ”inappropriate conduct” in 2002.