Just a quick one. You’ll have probably noticed that in the last few days, another leader of the Catholic community has commented on a link between homosexuality and paedophilia. This time it was Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State of the Vatican and essentially number 2 in the Catholic hierarchy. The Church was quick to distance itself from his comments (although come on, it’s not like it was just some retired bishop this time, if this guy can’t be trusted to speak on behalf of the Vatican, then who can?). That’s good, it shows that this view is being frowned upon in the Church. I didn’t like the way they tried to partially excuse the Cardinal, however. The Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, said that the Cardinal’s remarks had been misunderstood, and that actually he was only referring to homosexual members of the clergy, and not to homosexuals in the general population. That’s all well and good, except that if you take a look at what he actually said:
Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.
Then you realise that there’s no way that could possibly have just been referring to the clergy. Not only have there not (as far as I know) been psychological studies exclusively of paedophile members of the clergy, but he also offers no kind of explanation for why there should be a difference between homosexuals in the general population and homosexuals within the clergy, which you would expect if that’s what he meant. But whatever, it’s just a PR exercise, and Fr Lombardi did also say that the Cardinal had no place commenting on psychological issues, which is surprisingly frank for a Vatican statement.
UK bishops were also quick to denounce the comments. Rev Fr Marcus Stock, the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said that there was no empirical data to conclude that paedophilia had anything to do with homosexuality. I’d point out that there’s no empirical data to conclude that their God exists either, but credit where it’s due.
And whilst we’re on the topic of credit where it’s due, the Vatican did put guidelines on its website making clear that all cases of paedophilia must be reported to the authorities in countries where it is illegal. Good move.
But now we get back to the justification for Cardinal Bertone’s comment. In the same breath as he said the Cardinal had no place commenting on psychological issues, Fr Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said his comments had been based on statistical data which said that 90% of the abuse victims had actually been post-pubescent. Two-thirds of those were boys. According to the Guardian, those data came from Monsignor Charles Scicluna in an interview with Avvenire. So I looked that up and found the article online. It’s in Italian but the translation that Google Chrome is giving me is pretty good. Anyway in that interview he says this:
Q: How many do you have dealt with so far?
A: Overall in the last nine years (2001-2010) we evaluated the allegations of about three thousand cases of diocesan priests and religious, which refer to crimes committed in the last fifty years.
Q: So three thousand cases of pedophile priests?
A: It would not be correct to say so. We can say that roughly 60% of these cases are more like acts of ephebofilia, that is the sexual attraction to adolescents of the same sex, another 30% heterosexual and 10% of acts of real pedophilia, that is determined by a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. The cases of priests accused of pedophilia are true then about three hundred in nine years. It is still too many cases – for charity! – But we must recognize that the phenomenon is not as extensive as you would like to believe.
So, unless he’s trying to say that they were absolutely no cases of priests sexually abusing adults, then again we are only dealing with the statistical data for under-18s. This is the same problem that the studies cited by Bill Donohue had, and it shows a really quite alarming tendency to misinterpret the data. They are caught in the awkward position of claiming that if the victim is post-pubescent, then it is due to a homosexual attraction, but then arbitrarily cutting off their dataset at 18 years old.
Now I’ve written about this at length before, but I will make 2 very brief points:
1) The victim being post-pubescent and the same sex does not necessarily make the abuser a homosexual.
2) In studies including adults and children in cases of clerical abuse (although not just by Catholic clerics), over 90% of the victims were actually adult females.