Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone blames homosexuality - not celibacy - for child abuse sex scandal
By Michael Sheridan
Celibacy is not the cause behind the child sex abuse scandal that has shattered the priesthood and imploded the Catholic Church.
Blame homosexuality, the Vatican's second in command claims.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in a news conference in Chile on Monday that "many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia."
They do believe, however, "that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia," he said. "That is true. ... That is the problem."
His comments quickly were criticized by gay rights advocates in Chile.
"Neither Bertone nor the Vatican has the moral authority to give lessons on sexuality," said Rolando Jimenez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in Chile, according to The Associated Press.
"This is a perverse strategy by the Vatican to shirk its own ethical and legal responsibility by making a spurious and disgusting connection," he said.
For example, Jimenez noted that one high-profile case in Chile involved a priest victimizing a young girl.
Bertone was critical of priests who have been accused of molesting children, but his remarks were undercut by his using homosexuality as a scapegoat.
"The behavior of the priests in this case, the negative behavior, is very serious, is scandalous," the cardinal said.
Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, similarly pointed at homosexuality last month as the true problem behind the child abuse sex scandal.
In a full-page ad taken out in The New York Times, he called it a "homosexual crisis," claiming that "eighty percent of the victims of priestly sexual abuse are male."
This claim was attacked by gay rights groups.
"Even the Pope, during his 2008 visit to the United States, said that this crisis is not about gays and lesbians," said Jim FitzGerald, executive director of Call to Action, a Catholic movement working for equality and justice in the Church and society.
The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, also expressed criticism of Donohue's anti-gay attacks.
"I find his reasoning repugnant," he said. "To claim this is a 'homosexual crisis' rather than a 'pedophilia crisis' is a misguided insult to the millions of gay men and women who find this scandal as devastating as their heterosexual counterparts."
Celibacy among Catholic priests has often been central to the child abuse scandal, which has seen a once-thriving priesthood dwindle in numbers over the last decade.
"I don't understand how there can be a link between celibacy and child sex abuse," said Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas International, according to the ANSA news agency.
The church has been making efforts to repair the deep damage from the scandal. The Vatican posted new guidelines on Monday to stress that reports of child abuse received by church leaders, and deemed credible, must be reported to local authorities immediately.
Pope Benedict XVI also has been making efforts to reach out to sex abuse victims.
It is unclear if these efforts will help, however. In England, notable authors - and atheists - Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have been spearheading an effort to have the Pope brought up on charges for the scandal. They hope to "arrest" Benedict when he arrives in the United Kingdom in September.
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