Pope Francis has revealed that around one in every 50 Catholic priests is a paedophile.
Condemning the issue as a ‘leprosy’ which infects the Church, the Pontiff was yesterday reported as claiming that even bishops and cardinals are among the ‘2 per cent’ carrying out child abuse.
He also said that many more in the Church are guilty of covering it up, adding: ‘This state of affairs is intolerable.’
Damning reports by the UN this year have accused the Vatican of ‘systematically’ adopting policies that allowed priests to rape and molest thousands of children over decades, failing to report allegations to the authorities and transferring offenders to new dioceses where they could abuse again.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica yesterday, Francis denounced the corruption of children as ‘the most terrible and unclean thing imaginable’ and vowed to ‘confront it with the seriousness it demands’. The Pope’s comments come as Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby warned that fresh child abuse would be uncovered in the Church of England.
Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday whether more cases would emerge, he said: ‘I would love to say there weren’t but I expect there are. ‘There are in almost every institution in this land.’
He added that the Church needed to apologise and explain how ‘utterly devastated’ it was about its history child abuse.
He said: ‘It is becoming clearer and clearer that for many, many years things were not dealt with as they should have been dealt with. We must show justice to survivors of abuse.’ While Pope Francis has carried out sweeping reforms to the Vatican, he has been accused of not doing enough to tackle the child abuse crisis.
In his interview, Francis was quoted as saying: ‘The Church is fighting for the eradication of the habit and for education that rehabilitates. ‘But this leprosy is also present in our house. Many of my colleagues who are working against it tell me that paedophilia inside the Church is at the level of 2 per cent.’
He said that the figures supplied by Church officials were supposed to reassure him, but added: ‘But I have to say that they do not reassure me by any means. ‘On the contrary, I find them deeply concerning. Among the 2 per cent who are paedophiles are even bishops and cardinals.’
Last night Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the newspaper’s report had ‘captured the spirit’ of the conversation, but denied that Francis had said there are some cardinals who are paedophiles.
In his interview, the Pope acknowledged that paedophilia was common and widespread in the Catholic Church, and reportedly called the requirement for celibacy among priests ‘a problem’ for which he is ‘finding the solution’ – although the Vatican also denied that he said this.
Last week Pope Francis issued his strongest words on paedophile priests so far as he held a historic three-hour meeting with six abuse victims, including two from Britain and two from Ireland.
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