** Updated Below**
Wednesday in Geneva, Vatican representative to the United Nations Archbishop Silvano Tomasi defended the Church against accusations of irresponsibility in the face of child sexual abuse. But in his passionate defense, Tomasi alarmed observers by reading an official statement that claimed up to 5 percent of the Catholic clergy worldwide had been linked to sexual abuse and that this was primarily the result of homosexual attraction not pedophilia.
“Available research,” he said, showed that “only 1.5 percent to 5 percent” of Catholic clergy were involved in abuse and that it would “be more correct” to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males, rather than pedophilia as the cause.
“Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90 percent belong to this sexual orientation minority, which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17.”
It’s unclear what “available research” the Vatican was citing. Outside the Church, it has been suggested that girls are more often the victim of abuse than boys, at a ratio of roughly 4 to 1. Why that ratio would be reverse and lopsided in the Church is difficult to figure.
There are roughly 550,000 Catholic priests, deacons, brothers serving the Church around the world. Tomasi’s 5 percent would put the number of clergy linked to abuse at roughly 27,500.
The British Guardian reports that the Vatican defense came after a representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Keith Porteous Wood, accused the Church of covering up child abuse and being in breach of several articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Porteous Wood said the Holy See had not contradicted any of his accusations.
“The many thousands of victims of abuse deserve the international community to hold the Vatican to account, something it has been unwilling to do, so far. Both states and children’s organisations must unite to pressurise the Vatican to open its files, change its procedures worldwide, and report suspected abusers to civil authorities.
**Update: In comments below, the International Humanist and Ethical Union adds more on the exchange:
The IHEU criticised the Holy See 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 (http://www.iheu.org/un-publishes-iheu-statement… holy-see).
The [IHEU] statement addressed the role of the Holy See in attempting to cover up the extent of child abuse perpetrated by its priests and religious orders…
The reply argued that the Church was not unique in having clergy who sexually abused children and young people… Our point was not the abuse itself but the cover up.
The Holy See is a sovereign state and its senior clergy, safely ensconced in the Vatican out of reach of civil law, are answerable to no earthly power other than themselves – and to the few international treaties to which they are party. One such is the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Holy See is in massive breach of its obligations under that convention.
Commenting on the [Vatican] response, IHEU Main Representative in Geneva, Roy Brown, said: “By failing to address this issue while seeking to point the finger of blame elsewhere, the Holy See’ has scored a spectacular own goal. One senior UN official described their reply as ‘a disgrace’. We agree.”