2 Dec 2010

Vatican's top Cardinal blames sex crimes scandals on homosexuality in speech in Santiago, where Chilean priest raped girls

National Post - Canada April 13, 2010

Vatican Cardinal links homosexuality with pedophilia and abuse scandal

By Charles Lewis | National Post

The Vatican’s second-in-command says the pedophilia scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church can be blamed mainly on homosexuals in the priesthood, remarks that have outraged gay rights groups and rekindled criticism over the Church’s history with homosexuality.

“Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated there exists no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, said in Santiago on Monday. “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.”

The controversial view has been expressed by other conservative Catholics. In a full-page ad in The New York Times, the U.S. Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights also blamed homosexual priests as being the underlying cause of the crisis. There is no “pedophilia crisis” but a “homosexual crisis,” the ad read.

“While homosexuality does not cause predatory behavior, and most gay priests are not molesters, most of the molesters have been gay.”

Critics suggest that such remarks say more about the Church’s history and the Vatican’s attempt to distance itself from the current crisis.

“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,” said Aurelio Mancuso, former president of an Italian gay rights group, in response to the Vatican official’s statement.

Thomas Plante, a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University in California, said the concern about gay priests likely starts with the Church’s basic view of homosexuality.

“The Catholic Church sees homosexuality differently than the mental health community,” he said. “It’s not a disorder and we’re pretty adamant about that.”

The Church describes homosexuals as “objectively disordered,” though it states homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” It also calls on homosexuals to live a life of chastity.

Prof. Plante also noted a 2005 Vatican instruction that discouraged the ordination of men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”

The instruction said those tendencies “gravely hinder [homosexuals] from relating to men and women.”

Prof. Plante helps the Catholic Church screen candidates for the priesthood and has interviewed more than 600 men over the past 20 years as well as dealing with abusive priests.

“Before 2005 I would ask candidates their orientation to make sure they had a healthy psycho-sexual development, to see if they were mature enough,” Prof. Plante said. “Now we don’t ask because some seminaries will reject them for being gay.”

He said there is no scientific proof that homosexuals have more trouble remaining celibate than heterosexuals. And the one aspect he agreed with Cardinal Bertone is that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia. “Just because someone is celibate doesn’t make little kids appealing,” Prof. Plante said.

“I’ve talked to a lot these abusers and it comes down to who they have contact with and whose trust they can gain. It’s not a gay problem and if you get the gays out this situation the problem won’t go away.”

Sister Miriam Ukeritis, chief executive of the Southdown Institute, an Ontario group that works with troubled priests, said the statements blaming homosexuals reflect an inherent flaw in the notion of the abuse of minors.

“There is an assumption that the sexual object for abusers is consistent with their sexual orientation -- the assumption that a heterosexual would necessarily be attracted to young girls and a homosexual would be necessarily attracted to young boys. That’s not true,” she said. “There is no scientific correlation.”

Regardless, the president of the group behind the newspaper ad blaming gays said there is statistical evidence for the argument.

“The Catholic Church, under Pope Benedict XVI, has made it more difficult for practicing homosexuals to enter the priesthood. That is as it should be,” said Bill Donohue, Catholic League president. “Indeed, it is has been harder for gays to get into the priesthood for some time, the result being that the incidence of abuse has declined.”

(With files from AFP)

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The Guardian - UK April 13, 2010

Vatican attacked over cardinal's claim of homosexuality and paedophilia link

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Benedict's number two, said homosexuality - not celibacy - is linked to paedophilia

Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent, and John Hooper in Rome

Gay rights groups have condemned the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, for claiming that the Catholic church's sexual abuse crisis was linked to homosexuality and paedophilia and not celibacy among priests.

Bertone, who is considered Pope Benedict's number two, sparked the controversy on a visit to Chile when he suggested gay sexuality was to blame for the church's child abuse scandals.

Homosexual associations in Italy reacted with anger and indignation. The biggest group, Arcigay, called the cardinal's words "shocking and irresponsible". The president of the gay media service, Gaynet, said if senior church officials "feel constrained to dump the blame on homosexuals, it says a lot about the current state of desperation in the Vatican".

Gay rights advocates in Chile also waded in. "Neither Bertone nor the Vatican has the moral authority to give lessons on sexuality," Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in Chile, told AP.

No reputable study exists to support the cardinal's claims, said Jiménez added. "This is a perverse strategy by the Vatican to shirk its own ethical and legal responsibility by making a spurious and disgusting connection."

The cardinal, who is known for his blunt and sometimes tactless manner, made the remarks at a televised press conference in Chile's capital Santiago.

He said: "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and paedophilia but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. This pathology is one that touches all categories of people, and priests to a lesser degree in percentage terms. The behaviour of the priests in this case, the negative behaviour, is very serious, is scandalous."

In apparent embarrassment, the Holy See's official daily, L'Osservatore Romano, did not mention Bertone's remarks in its report on the press conference.

Five years ago the Vatican implicitly linked homosexuality and paedophilia when, following the child abuse scandals in the US, it banned men from studying for the priesthood if they "showed deeply rooted homosexual tendencies".

But the connection was questioned last year in the preliminary version of a report commissioned by the American Catholic bishops, which is due to be published in December. They said the data they had studied so far did not support a link between a homosexual identity and a higher probability of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Bertone's remarks in Chile may have been prompted in part by renewed calls in Latin America and elsewhere for the church to drop its celibacy rule. Costa Rica's president Oscar Arias last week urged the Vatican to "correct that error".

The church is also under pressure in Argentina, Mexico and other Latin American countries which have ignored its injunctions against granting civic rights to same-sex couples.

Santiago was not an ideal venue for the cardinal's remarks given that one of the Chilean church's highest-profile paedophile cases involves a priest having sex with young girls. Despite multiple complaints the church hierarchy kept Father José Andres Aguirre, known to parishoners as Father Tato, serving at several Catholic girls' schools in the capital.

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CNN - April 15, 2010

Gay outrage over cardinal's child abuse comment

By Hilary Whiteman | CNN

London, England (CNN) -- Gay rights groups have expressed outrage over comments made by a senior Vatican official linking homosexuality to child abuse.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who also serves as the Vatican's Secretary of State, made the comment during a news conference while on an official visit to Chile.

"Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have demonstrated, I was told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia," he said.

Tony Green of the London-based Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said Bertone's comments came as no surprise given recent controversial statements by Church leaders.

"Of course we're appalled by it but not shocked -- people like this are bound to say this. It's a bit like comparing attacks on the Catholic Church to the Holocaust and all that. It is desperate people trying to come out with desperate answers," he said.

High-profile gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell added his voice to the criticism.

"The Vatican is trying to deflect attention from the sex crimes of Catholic clergy by blaming gay people. This is really sick," Tatchell told the British Press Association.

"There is absolutely no connection whatsoever between pedophilia and loving, consenting adult gay relationships," he added.

A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry on Wednesday also denounced Bertone's remarks connecting homosexuality to pedophilia. "It is an unacceptable amalgam that we condemn," said the spokesman, Bernard Valero.

"France assures its firm involvement in the struggle against discrimination and prejudice related to sexual orientation and gender identity."

A Vatican spokesman said Wednesday that just 10 percent of the abuse cases against priests that were reviewed by the Vatican constituted "pedophilia in the strict sense." The rest were cases of abuse against teenagers, said the spokesman, Federico Lombardi.

Roughly 60 percent of those incidents were between priests and teenage boys, he said, while 30 percent were between priests and teenage girls.

The latest row over the Vatican's response to the abuse scandal came amid calls for the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI on his impending visit to Britain.

James Cantor, the Head of the Law and Mental Health Research Section of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, also rejected suggestions of a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.

"It's quite solidly shown in the scientific literature that there is absolutely no association between being a gay man and being a pedophile," Cantor, also Editor-in-Chief of "Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment," told CNN.

A Vatican spokesman declined CNN's request for comment on the Cardinal's statement.

The Catholic Church has been under attack over a series of scandals exposing widespread abuse of children dating back decades.

An attempt by Pope Benedict XVI to calm the storm in March with an apology to victims of child abuse in Ireland has since been eclipsed by controversial statements by senior clergy.

During Easter Mass, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a former Vatican secretary of state and the dean of the College of Cardinals, provoked criticism by appearing to downplay the seriousness of the abuse allegations.

He said the pope retained the support of Catholics around the world "who do not let themselves be influenced by the gossip."

Days earlier, the pontiff's personal preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, compared the attacks on the church to anti-semitism. He later apologized for any offence caused.

On Monday, the Vatican published a one-page document outlining the official steps dioceses should take if a priest is accused of abuse.

The document did not appear to contain new guidance -- only to consolidate existing practices into one document.

Father Ciro Benedettini of the Vatican press office told CNN it was designed primarily to help the media understand Church procedures.

The document roused further criticism from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) whose spokesman Mark Serrano said: "It's sad when the Vatican has to make it clear to bishops that they must follow secular laws. It's fairly obvious that if you are saying you will now cooperate with the police then you are admitting that you have not been."

On Tuesday high-profile atheist Richard Dawkins called for the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI on charges of crimes against humanity when the pontiff visits Britain later this year.

"One could make the case he was complicit in the covering up of the crimes after they had been committed, and we have it in his own words that he put the public relations' interest of the church ahead of the interests of the children themselves," Dawkins told CNN.

He said the idea of papal charges was first floated by author and journalist Christopher Hitchens and together they consulted lawyers in England to see whether charges could be brought.

"I'm not sure if it's really feasible that he will literally end up in the dock. That's what we're aiming for. But I think it's good consciousness-raising to alert people to the fact that there's no reason why the head of a large religious organization should be exempt from the same law that the rest of the world has to summit to.

"There is no get out of jail free card which should be offered to a religious leader anymore than to anyone else in the world," he said.

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As one bishop blames Jews for current criticisms of Catholic church, another blames homosexuality for pedophile priests


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