Vatican Backtracks On Linking Abuse Scandal To Gays

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A day after the Vatican's No. 2 official suggested a link between pedophilia and homosexuality, the pope's top spokesman issued a clarification Wednesday (April 14), apparently hoping to diffuse the ensuing controversy.

"Church authorities do not consider it within their competency to make general statements of a specifically psychological or medical nature, but refer to research studies undertaken by specialists in these matters," said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, in a statement.

Lombardi's statement referred to remarks by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who told reporters in Chile 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."

Some critics, and at least two prominent cardinals, have suggested the spreading clergy sexual abuse scandal should prompt a re-examination of the church's requirement of priestly celibacy.

Bertone's remarks drew criticism from gay rights groups in many countries, the French government, and the general secretary of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales.

"To the best of my knowledge, there is no empirical data which concludes that sexual orientation is connected to child sexual abuse," said the Rev. Marcus Stock. "In the sexual abuse of children the issue is the sexual fixation of the abusers and not their sexual orientation."

Even Pope Benedict XVI has downplayed a link between homosexuality and sexual abuse, telling reporters en route to Washington in 2008 that "I do not wish to talk at this moment about homosexuality, but about pedophilia, which is another thing."