|Catholic Celibacy to Blame for Child Sex Cases, Says Euro Mp
By Joseph Watts
This Is Derbyshire
September 22, 2010
CONTROVERSIAL East Midlands Euro MP Roger Helmer has blamed celibacy for pushing Catholic priests into focusing their attentions on "altar boys" instead of "God's work".
The outspoken Member of the European Parliament claimed that abstaining from sex meant priests had no way of venting their "natural instincts", which in turn led many to seek "unnatural outlets".
The MEP, who has gained a reputation for making controversial comments, went on to describe the Catholic Church as "systemically paedophile". Mr Helmer's comments follow Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to Britain which was blighted by protests over the international child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church.
Cases of child abuse committed by Catholic priests have been reported from countries around the world – including the UK and Ireland. Meanwhile the Vatican, and Pope Benedict himself, has been accused by victims of trying to cover up the scandal.
Mr Helmer, who represents voters in Derby and Derbyshire, wrote on his blog: "The Church needs to understand why these dreadful events happened, and how to prevent them.
"It would not be fair to describe the Church as 'institutionally paedophile'. So far as I know it has no rules or systems designed to support or promote paedophilia.
"But I think it would be perfectly fair to describe it as 'systemically paedophile'.
"We are not dealing with a mere handful of cases, but with endemic abuse across many dioceses in many countries, and over several decades."
Mr Helmer has previously courted controversy by suggesting that man-made climate change is a myth and by defending high bank profits.
Explaining his view on the child abuse committed by Catholic clergy he wrote: "It comes down to priestly celibacy.
"If you take healthy young men and deny them a natural outlet for their natural instincts, then many of them will seek unnatural outlets.
"Priestly celibacy is meant to focus the priest's mind on God's work, but all too often it seems to focus his mind on altar boys.
"If you put such priests in charge of the pastoral care of young people, you create both the inclination and the opportunity for abuse."
Father Peter Ingram, of St Mary's Rectory, in Bridge Gate, Derby, said he thought the comments were "nonsense". He said: "He has commented on an ongoing story which has been around since before the Pope's visit.
"Mr Helmer is obviously not aware of the rigorous vetting system that has been in place for a number of years.
"Those in the Catholic Church who work with children must undergo a criminal records check. If a person is a paedophile, it is more to do with their personality and less to do with their status."
The Derby Telegraph contacted the offices of the Bishop of Nottingham, The Right Rev Malcolm McMahon, who is responsible for Catholics in Derby. We also contacted the office of the UK's highest ranking Catholic clergyman, the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols. Neither would last night respond.
Speaking to the Derby Telegraph, Mr Helmer said: "I want the Catholic Church to think seriously about the ideas that I'm putting out there. It's pretty self-evident that this is a problem in the Catholic Church and that it is spread across many countries and many years – so it's reasonable to ask what is different about these people that might make the problem prevalent.
"Maybe now the church needs to have a radical look at celibacy, to see that it doesn't seem to be working and is causing problems."
A Conservative Party spokesman said: "After expressing his personal view, the Conservative Party is now aware that Mr Helmer has made changes to his blog and has expressed his regret at any offence which may have been caused."
Mr Helmer said that while he regretted any offence caused by his comments, he would not say sorry for expressing his honestly-held opinion.
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