VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The problem of pederasty “is so minor” in the Italian Church “that it does not merit specific attention,” Bishop Giuseppe Betori said.
Bishop Betori, secretary general of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), was affirming that the “great majority” of priests carry out their ministry “with great fidelity to the Gospel.” He spoke at the first press conference of the 49th General Assembly, convening in the Vatican from May 20-24.
In the course of the episcopal debate, there was a “renewal of the bishops´ confidence in the great majority of the Italian clergy,” beginning with the awareness that “marginal episodes cannot diminish the Church´s confidence in priests,” who are always “in the midst of the people,” Bishop Betori said.
Questioned on whether the 12 alleged cases of pederasty have come up, since some press reports imply that these are the focus of his attention, Bishop Betori spoke with certainty, specifying that in the last meeting of the CEI´s Permanent Commission, “the topic was not discussed and there was no reference to concrete episodes.”
Such episodes, the Bishop added, are so “marginal that each Bishop assumes, in his own diocese, the position he believes is most opportune.”
Therefore, there is no “list” or “number” of such abuses at the national level. This does not cancel “the possibility of interventions both at the level of psychological support, with adequate provisions for priests in difficulty, as well as at the canonical level if these were necessary,” Bishop Betori added.
“The Episcopal Conference is not a ´super-diocese´; it is not responsible for following the phenomenon. The task of supervision belongs to each Bishop and may eventually be requested from Vatican organizations.”
However, the Episcopal Conference must address the “vocational challenge,” with proper discernment in seminaries at the earliest “stage of priestly vocations,” and with “successive attention to the balanced maturation of the candidates´ personalities,” the Bishop concluded.