Friday, 16 April 2010

Vatican reminds the press of the context of Cardinal Bertone’s statement

    The press once again spread across the world a totally false impression, having made no attempt to situate statements by a leading Church official in their obvious context. In many countries people, misled by the press reports, sprang to criticize the Cardinal. This included homosexual organizations and even included the French Foreign Affairs Ministry.
   Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's comments were made during a press conference on Monday (April 12) in Chile. He was asked if there is a link between celibacy and sexual abuse by the clergy. This was the context of his remarks, a context that was ignored by the media and those uncritically following media reports. Cardinal Bertone’s response to the question was: "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia, but many others have shown, and have told me recently, that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia." The Cardinal, as is clear from the question he was asked, was referring only to the clerical abuse problem, not to the world-wide abuse of minors generally.

    In a communiqué released today, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, clarified that the cardinal was referring to scientific studies that have been conducted within the context of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, and not in society at large. Fr. Lombardi , S.J., made the following declaration: 
  "Ecclesial authorities do not consider it within their competency to make general affirmations of a specifically psychological or medical character and therefore naturally must refer to the study of specialists and the inquiries they carry out."

(This statement by Fr Lombardi was interpreted by the media as distancing the Holy See from Cardinal Bertone's remarks. It was not. He was simply pointing out that Cardinal Bertone was not meaning to make a general affirmation himself. He was merely referring to the studies of specialists and their findings, as passed on to him. The statement continues by referring to those studies.)

  Fr Lombardi's statement continued, "Concerning the competency of ecclesial authorities, in the area of the causes of abuse of minors on the part of priests, which the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has faced in recent years, the statistical data related by Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna states that in 10% of cases of pedophilia, in the strict use of the term, 90% should rather be defined as ephebophilia (that is, with adolescents). Further, 60% of those are of a same sex and 30% of a heterosexual character. This, of course, references the problems of abuse on the part of priests and not of the population in general."

 That is to say, in the cases dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 90% involved confrontations with adolescents (i.e., only 10% with children), of which close to 60% referred to individuals of the same sex and 30% were of a heterosexual character. The majority of cases, then, as the Cardinal had said when asked, involved homosexuality. Father Lombardi concluded by clarifying that the Cardinal was obviously referring to the problem of abuse by priests, and not in the population in general.

These statements by Msgr Scicluna of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and repeated in general terms by Cardinal Bertone are backed by the report published in 2004 by John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, regarded as the most complete report on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. On studying the charges of sexual abuse presented against clerics between 1950 and 2002 in the United States, the report stated that an overwhelming majority of the victims -- 81% -- were males. The John Jay study also said that pedophilia -- an attraction to pre-pubescent children diagnosed as a psychiatric disease -- was a smaller part of the sexual abuse problem, as the majority of the victims were adolescents. What Cardinal Bertone had said was correct, and he was carelessly misinterpreted and misreported by the media. This has been a constant feature of press report and comment on this matter.

The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States, commonly known as the John Jay Report, is a 2004 report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States. It is the single most comprehensive study of clerical sexual abuse in the United States.