First the New York Times:
Comments by Cardinal on Sexuality Create a Stir
By RACHEL DONADIO
ROME — Tensions rose on Wednesday over comments made Monday by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who called homosexuality “a pathology” and linked it to pedophilia. The comments came as the Vatican was trying to calm a scandal over sexual abuse by priests.
Gay rights and victims’ groups protested the comments — and on Wednesday even the French government weighed in, calling the remarks by Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican’s second in command, “an unacceptable conflation, and one that we condemn.”
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, quickly distanced the Vatican from the remarks. “Church authorities do not have the competency to make general statements about medical or psychological issues, which we, of course, refer to specialists,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
“He was evidently speaking about abuse on the part of priests and not in the general population,” he added.
The comments, raising for the first time the touchy issue of homosexuality amid the sexual abuse scandal, once again spoke to the Vatican’s continued difficulties in effectively tackling the crisis. In suggesting a link between sexual abuse and homosexuality, Cardinal Bertone stirred up the waters rather than calming them. And even as he distanced the Vatican from those remarks, Father Lombardi answers directly to Cardinal Bertone, further evidence of the Vatican’s less-than-orchestrated message.
The issue is even more charged because Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 1986 wrote the document presenting the Vatican’s most recent stance condemning homosexuality, which determined that it was “not a sin” but “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” and thus “an objective disorder.”
On a visit to Chile on Monday, Cardinal Bertone said that “many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia, but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia,” according to news reports.
“This pathology is one that touches all categories of people, and priests to a lesser degree in percentage terms,” he added, speaking in Spanish at a news conference. “The behavior of the priests in this case, the negative behavior, is very serious, is scandalous.”
On Wednesday, Bernard Valero, the spokesman for the French foreign minister, condemned Cardinal Bertone’s remarks at a news conference in Paris.
“France reiterates its resolute commitment to fighting discrimination and prejudice linked to sexual orientation and gender identity,” he added.
Some in Italy also criticized the remarks. Franco Grillini, a veteran gay activist, called the link “a huge lie,” the ANSA news agency reported. A front-page editorial in the center-left daily La Repubblica said, “It seems very strange to us that a man of the church doesn’t realize how far beyond the pale it is to link homosexuality to pedophilia.”
In distancing the Vatican from Cardinal Bertone’s remarks, Father Lombardi on Wednesday referred to statistics cited by the Vatican’s internal prosecutor, Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, who has said that of the 3,000 abuse cases handled in the past decade by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 60 percent involved priests attracted to adolescent boys; 30 percent involved heterosexual relations; and 10 percent concerned pedophilia, or sexual attraction toward prepubescent children.
Beyond a letter to Irish Catholics on March 20, the pope has not yet directly addressed the growing sexual abuse scandal, and pressure is growing. The crisis has raised questions about Benedict’s actions as archbishop of Munich in 1980 when a pedophile priest was moved to his diocese, and as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he is accused of failing to take strong action to punish pedophile priests in several high-profile cases.
In an interview in the German newspaper Bild on Tuesday, Benedict’s personal secretary, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, defended the pope.
“It does not make sense, nor is it helpful, for the Holy Father to comment personally on each case,” the monsignor said. “It is overlooked too fast that here the individual bishops and bishops conferences also carry responsibility.”