Top Cardinal, Tarcisio Bertone, Blames Paedophile Crisis on Homosexuals

By Ruth Gledhill
The Times
April 13, 2010

The Holy See's second-highest prelate after the Pope has blamed homosexuals for the paedophile crisis.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State, said that the child rape scandal that is threatening the moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide is linked to homosexuality and not celibacy among priests.

Other Vatican clerics have sought to deflect criticism from the Catholic hierarchy by blaming the media, and one retired bishop was even reported earlier this week to have blamed the Jews.

Cardinal Bertone made the comments during a news conference on Monday in Chile, where one of the church's highest-profile paedophile cases involves a priest having sex with young girls.

Photo by Ivan Alvarado

Cardinal Bertone said: "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and paedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. That is the problem." Cardinal Bertone also said that the church had never impeded investigations of paedophilia by priests.

Chile's gay rights advocates reacted with anger. "Neither Bertone nor the Vatican has the moral authority to give lessons on sexuality," said Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in Chile.

Mr Jimenez also said that no reputable study existed to support the cardinal's claims. "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.

At least one of the paedophile priests in the Chilean Church victimised young girls, including a teenager who became pregnant.

At the time the archbishop of the capital, Santiago, received multiple complaints about Father José Andrés Aguirre. However, the priest known to his parishioners as Father Tato continued serving at a number of Catholic girls schools in the city.

Later the Church sent Aguirre out of Chile twice amid abuse allegations. He was eventually sentenced to 12 years in prison for abusing 10 teenage girls.

One of the girls, identified as Paula, said that she and the priest started to have sex when she was 16 and that it lasted until she was 20.

She told the Chilean newspaper La Nacion: "I thought it wasn't that bad to have sex with him because when I told priests about it at confession they just told me to pray and that was it. They knew, and some of them guessed that it was Father Tato. But everyone looked the other way. No one corrected or helped me." She said that one of the priests to whom she confessed about Aguirre was Bishop Francisco José Cox, who himself was facing allegations of paedophilia.

Cox had been bishop in La Serena, in northern Chile, for seven years when he was removed in 1997 amid rumours that he was a paedophile. He was first transferred to Santiago, then Rome, then Colombia, and finally Germany. The Schoenstatt Movement, a worldwide lay community within the Catholic Church, paid for the moves and his treatment.

In 2002 Santiago Archbishop Francisco Javier Erráruriz said that Cox had agreed to be removed for "inappropriate conduct".

The archbishop acknowledged that Cox had shown "affection that was a bit exuberant", especially toward children, but said: "I'm not aware of any formal allegation backed by evidence." Archbishop Erráruriz said that Cox volunteered to be confined to a Schoenstatt convent in Colombia to continue "praying to God for his pardon for the errors he has made".

Last week the archbishop admitted that the Chilean Church was investigating cases of priest paedophilia after playing the issue down for years.

"There is something to these paedophilia abuses just a few, thank God," Archbishop Errazuriz said in an interview on state television.

Cardinal Bertone's comments are likely to exacerbate further the worst crisis to engulf the Catholic Church in years.

Last week the Associated Press published correspondence that showed that while heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger, now the Pope, resisted pleas from a California diocese to laicise a priest who had pleaded no contest to lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two boys.

In 1986 Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons in which he stated that a homosexual orientation, even if the person was totally celibate, was a "tendency" toward an "intrinsic moral evil". Moreover, he said, a homosexual inclination is both an "objective disorder" and a "moral disorder", which is "contrary to the creative wisdom of God". "Special concern and pastoral attention should be directed towards those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not."

The future Pope concluded in his letter that pastoral care for homosexual persons should include the "assistance of the psychological, sociological and medical sciences", and that "all support should be withdrawn from any organisations which seek to undermine the teachings of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which ignore it entirely".

Yesterday there were unconfirmed reports that a retired bishop, Giacomo Babini of Grosseto, had said that a "Zionist attack" was behind the criticism of the Pope, that Jews were the Church's "natural enemies" and that "deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are deicides [God killers]".

Mgr Babini was quoted as having told an Italian Catholic website that Hitler had exploited German anger over the "excesses" of German Jews, who in the 1930s had "throttled" the German economy.

Denying making such remarks, Mgr Babini, 81, later said: "Statements I have never made about our Jewish brothers have been attributed to me."

The Vatican also came under fire at Easter when the Pope's personal preacher, the Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa, quoted a "Jewish friend", who likened accusations against the pontiff in the clergy sex abuse cover-up scandals to collective violence against Jews.

He made the remarks in a Good Friday sermon at St Peter's Basilica, which the Pope attended.

A recent edition of The Tablet, the British weekly, quoted a curial official on facts and figures about the paedophile cases that have been reported in the last ten years.

Mgr Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: "It is possible that in the past perhaps out of a misunderstood sense of protecting the good name of the institution some bishops were, in practice, too indulgent towards these very sad cases. I say this was in practice because, in principle, the condemnation of this kind of crime has always been firm and unequivocal." He said that between 1975 and 1985 he knew of no cases of paedophilia committed by priests. Only from 2001 did the congregation deal with such cases. "Therefore, to accuse the current pontiff of a cover-up is, I repeat, false and calumnious," he said.

He said that in 2003 and 2004 an "avalanche of cases hit our desks." Many of them came from the United States and concerned the past.

"In recent years, thank God, the phenomenon has greatly reduced. So now we try to deal with new cases in real time." In the last nine years the congregation has considered accusations concerning about 3,000 cases, which refer to crimes committed over the last 50 years.

He continued: "We can say that, in general, about 60 per cent of these cases chiefly deal with, more than anything else, acts of efebophilia; that is, sexual attraction towards adolescents of the same sex. In another 30 per cent they are heterosexual acts. And in 10 per cent they are acts of true and proper paedophilia; that is, based on sexual attraction towards prepubescent children.

"The cases of priests accused of true and proper paedophilia have been about 300 in nine years. These are too many for goodness sake! but it must be recognised that the phenomenon is not as widespread as some would have us believe." The age of consent in the Vatican is 12.

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