13 April 2010
SANTIAGO — The child sex abuse scandal scorching the Catholic Church worsened Tuesday with lawmakers, doctors and gay activists slamming an attempt by the Vatican to shift the blame for the pedophilia to homosexual priests.
Comments by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, during a visit to Chile on Monday triggered the indignation by saying homosexuality, not celibacy among the clergy, was at fault.
“Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated there exists no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia,” Bertone told a Santiago news conference.
“But many others have demonstrated, and have told me recently, that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia. This is true, this is the problem,” he said.
The comments immediately threw fuel on the scandal that is threatening to engulf Pope Benedict XVI, by prompting outrage Tuesday in Chile and in Italy.
“I would like to see the scientific studies he said he has, because I don’t share this evaluation… I have the impression that he is wrong on this point,” said a Chilean senator who helped draft anti-pedophile laws, Patricio Walker.
“This linking is wrong. Celibacy does more damage to a human being than homosexuality, which is a freely made choice,” a communist deputy, Hugo Gutierrez, told AFP. “I’m shocked by these words from a senior dignitary of the Church.”
A medical specialist at the University of Chile, Tamara Galleguillos, added that “it’s not possible to think there’s a direct link between homosexuality and pedophilia.”
She explained that her work in Chile’s forensic service showed homosexual pedophiles were no more likely to commit their crimes than heterosexual pedophiles.
Rolando Jimenez, head of Chile’s Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, called on Bertone “to show us any scientific, rigorous, serious and religiously independent study that supports this allegation.”
In Rome, the head of Italian gay rights group Gaylib, Enrico Oliari, called it “worrying that the foreign minister of a state that occupies the heart of the Italian capital would use arguments that are considered passe even in the Third World.”
Aurelio Mancuso, former president of a larger Italian 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.”
A center-left Italian lawmaker, Anna Paola Concia, demanded the cardinal “immediately retract his violent, inhuman and extremely serious words.”
She accused Bertone of peddling in “false and damaging theories rejected by the World Health Organisation and that are not shared by most Catholics.”
Bertone’s controversial statement came as the Vatican tried to step up its damage control on the scandal.
The leadership of the Catholic Church has repeatedly tried to dismiss as media exaggerations the tide of recent claims in Austria, Germany, Ireland and the United States that predator priests were given protection from prosecution by their hierarchy.
Pope Benedict himself has faced allegations that he failed to take action against pedophile priests, both as head of the Vatican’s top doctrinal and morals enforcer and earlier as the Munich archbishop.
The Holy See this week used its mouthpiece newspaper to praise its handling of past pedophile cases as “exemplary,” and on Monday it posted guidelines on handling new cases on its official website.