The Queen has invited the Pope to ‘tea’ – “more tea Pope”? – next year at Buckingham Palace. According to The Catholic Herald, the Queen has “grown increasingly sympathetic” to the Catholic Church over the years while being “appalled”, along with the Prince of Wales, at developments in the Church of England. She might do better to be appalled at the behaviour of the Holy See.
The Holy See is a sovereign state and its senior clergy, safely ensconced in the Vatican out of reach of civil law, and answerable to no earthly power other than themselves – are entitled to a permanent seat at the United Nations.
Last month, in an address to the UN Human Rights Council by Keith Woods, representing the International Humanist and Ethical Union, the Holy See was criticised over its role in covering up the scale of child abuse by its priests and religious orders, and for failing to honour its obligations under international law.
Archbishop Thomasi duly exercised the Papal Nuncio’s right of reply – and what an extraordinary reply it was!
The statement petulantly complained that other religions had problems with sex abuse, too (true, but irrelevant in terms of the Catholic Church’s need to account for its endemic sex abuse), that Protestant churches’ and Jewish communities’ problems were worse than the Catholic Church’s problems (whether true or not, it was also irrelevant), and that ‘only’ 1.5% – 5% of Catholic clergy were involved in child sex abuse
There are about 1,500,000 Catholic clergy worldwide; ‘only’ 1.5% of that is
22,500 sexual predators, and if we take the 5% figure, it is 75,000 sexual predators – scarcely a reassuring rebuttal of the charge of systemic child abuse.
He then went on to engage is some interesting semantics – he said that rather than paedophilia, it would “be more correct” to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males.
“Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17.”
If this rhetorical parsing weren’t already pathetic enough in its attempt to redirect blame onto the gay population of the church, it’s not even accurate; Ephebophilia is not the correct term for people who ’sexually engage’ with children ages 11-17. Ephebophilia refers to people who have a sexual preference for advanced adolescents; hebephilia refers to people who have a sexual preference for those in early puberty; and pedophilia refers to people who have a sexual preference for pre-pubescent children. Most 11-year-old are not advanced adolescents, and many, especially boys, are still pre-pubescent.
The Catholic Church has a problem with priests who rape children below the age of consent. That is a fact which is not changed by what name it’s called. Nor are we reassured by the fact that other churches may have in excess of the potential 75,000 child abusers that the Vatican admits to.
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis, said: “Comparative tragedy is a dangerous path on which to travel. All of us need to look within our own communities. Child abuse is sinful and shameful and we must expel them immediately from our midst.”