By Jesús Colina
PAMPLONA, Spain, APRIL 15, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Numbers might not be politically correct, but they shouldn’t offend anyone, according to an author who says the current discourse on pedophile priests is a typical example of a “moral panic.”
Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center for Studies on New Religions, affirmed this in speaking of the media firestorm surrounding a press conference given Monday in Chile by Benedict XVI’s secretary of state.
In response to a question asking if there is a link between celibacy and sexual abuse by the clergy, Cardinal Bertone responded: “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 media response, according to Introvigne, is a case of aggression based on twisting the cardinal’s statements.
ZENIT spoke with Introvigne about the press reaction and what Cardinal Bertone actually said.
ZENIT: In response to a journalist, Cardinal Bertone simply referred to studies carried out on cases of priests who have committed sexual abuse, confirming that in the majority the abuse was perpetrated against males who had passed puberty. What are the numbers?
Introvigne: I believe it is a duty to express solidarity with Cardinal Bertone, who is a victim of an unworthy and, frankly, ill-mannered aggression. In the framework of a press conference, which is not a scientific exposition, the cardinal limited himself to alluding to an obvious fact that all the experts know. According to the 2004 report from John Jay College of New York — the most authoritative study that exists on the subject — in the United States 81% of minors’ accusations of abuses by priests affect boys and not girls. We are speaking of males who abuse other males. In Ireland also the abuses of priests against boys are double compared to those of girls.
These are numbers and, as such, they shouldn’t offend anyone and one cannot make them say more — or less — than what they say.
ZENIT: But one cannot say that homosexuals are pedophiles…
Introvigne: No one has said that. No one has said that all priests with homosexual tendencies abuse minors. That would be an absolutely unjust accusation. However, it is a fact that the majority of priests who abuse minors, abuse minors of the same sex.
ZENIT: How have Cardinal Bertone’s words been twisted?
Introvigne: Cardinal Bertone certainly did not wish to make a medical assessment of this behavior: ephebophilia, homosexuality, pedophilia. Those who criticize him confuse a press conference with a medical treatise, and seek to prohibit the mention of statistical data they consider politically incorrect. This is an unacceptable form of censure, on occasions disguised as scientific.
ZENIT: In his pastoral letter to Ireland’s Catholics, Benedict XVI notes a clear relation between these cases of loss of respect for the Church and her teachings, which has developed within her after Vatican Council II. Do you see a direct relation?
Introvigne: In my personal opinion I believe that a certain tolerance in some Catholic seminaries — let it be clear, not in all — a homosexual subculture of the 70s, has had more than a secondary role in the moral confusion and in the theoretical and practical answer of the moral magisterium of the Church, which the Pope criticizes in his letter on Ireland. This doctrinal and practical confusion prepared the ground in which at times the evil weed of tolerance was able to grow regarding the abuses. It certainly has not been the only cause of the crisis, but it is part of a more general problem. The Church has taken measures precisely to address this problem.
It shouldn’t be something new for anyone that the Church — making very clear the respect owed to homosexual persons as persons — regards homosexual acts always as objectively disordered. And if she considers them so in society in general, she cannot tolerate it in novitiates and seminaries.
ZENIT: Why are there such harsh and unjust attacks made against Cardinal Bertone, the Pope and the Church?
Introvigne: Everyone is struck right now by the action of a “gay lobby” that seeks a pretext in the issue of pederast priests to silence the Church, to impede her from presenting her doctrine on the objectively disordered character of the homosexual act, and above all to set up obstacles to the extremely effective action that Catholics have carried out to block states’ public recognition of homosexual unions. The appropriate way to respond to the arrogance of the lobbies is not to back down. What is more, the doctrine of the Church on homosexuality must be proposed again and explained with serenity in all venues. This doctrine must be explained with its reason-based foundations, and not only those of faith, also to non-believers. And to ask states to take this into account is not meddling by the Church, but a service to the common good. And the laity, particularly those involved in politics, must raise their voice against public recognition of homosexual unions.
[Translation by ZENIT]
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On the Net:
An essay by Introvigne “Pedophile Priests. The Social Construction of a Moral Panic”: www.cesnur.org/2010/mi_preti_pedofili_en.html