An Italian newspaper quoted Pope Francis as saying that two percent of Roman Catholic clerics are sexual abusers. Pope Francis went on to say that he considered the crime of sexual abuse “a leprosy in our house.” The Vatican quickly issued a statement claiming some parts of the article in the newspaper were inaccurate.
The article was a result of an hour long conversation between Pope Francis and the founder of the newspaper, Eugenio Scalfari. Scalfari is an atheist and has written about several of the conversations he has had with the pope.
The newspaper quoted Pope Francis as saying, “many of my collaborators who fight with me [against pedophilia] reassure me with reliable statistics that say that the level of pedophilia in the Church is at about two percent. This data should hearten me but I have to tell you that is does not hearten me at all. In fact, I think that it is very grave.” Church statistics for 2012 reveal that there are 414,000 Roman Catholic priests in the world.
In the statement from the Vatican, they noted that Scalfari’s normal procedure during his long conversations is to not take any notes or tape them. He then reconstructs those conversations from memory. It should be noted however that Scalfari, 90, on one of Italy’s best known journalists.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in the statement that the conversation between Pope Francis and Scalfari did take place. However, he added that not all of the phrases could actually be attributed “with certainty” to the pope.
One such phrase attributed to Pope Francis is that cardinals were among the sex abusers. Lombardi said this was not an accurate quote and accused the paper of attempting to “manipulate naïve readers.”
Last week, Pope Francis met with victims of sexual abuse by priests for the first time. He told them that the Church should “weep and make reparation” for the crimes. He further vowed to them to have a zero tolerance policy for abusers and that his bishops would be held accountable if they covered up crimes committed by priests in their diocese.
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