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Wednesday, 14 April 2010 06:05

Having Tried Blaming Victims and Jews Already, Vatican Settles on Homosexuality as the Cause of Church Abuse Scandal

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by Meg White

So much for diplomacy.

After the Pope and the Catholic Church at large failed miserably at placating the angry and disgusted masses after the public became aware of the widespread child abuse scandal, the Vatican's top diplomat was deployed to explain what had happened.

For those of you who have stopped keeping score, the Church had already tried to blame the media and the 1960s for the epidemic. Then they shifted to blaming the victims, insisting that promiscuous children were to blame for their being tied up and abused in the local rectory.

That didn't go over so well (for obvious reasons). So let's pick on another historically marginalized group, the Holy See must have reasoned. How about the Jews? They don't like Pope Benedict's Nazi connections anyway, so little love lost there! As you may have guessed, that attempt fared badly too.

Enter the diplomat. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state at the Vatican, said that it's homosexuals that bear the blame for the culture of child abuse that flourishes among Catholic priests. In an address in Chile this week, Bertone justified the blame game with pseudoscience:

Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and  pedophilia, but many others have shown and I've been told recently that there is a relationship between homosexuality and  pedophilia. That is the truth. I read it in a document written by psychologists, so that is the problem.

Italian activists were among the first to respond to the comments. From Reuters:

"This is a scientific absurdity. The World Health Organization calls homosexuality a variation of human behavior. It is pedophilia that is a pathology, a crime, not homosexuality," said Franco Grillini, a former parliamentarian who was at the vanguard of Italy's gay rights movement.

"Because they have their own problems with the abuse crisis and don't know how to handle it, they are trying to pass their 'cross' from their shoulders on to ours," Grillini told Reuters.

In response to the outrage, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi presented Church statistics that indicated that two-thirds of abusive priests are homosexual. So, when Bertone says he knows that homosexuality is a pathology because he read it somewhere, he's probably talking about the Vatican's own writings on the subject, not say, the World Health Organization's. 

But, much as I wouldn't buy a textbook from the Texas school board, I'm not going to accept wild "scientific" assertions from a group who will only accept scientific facts that do not conflict with Church dogma. How should I know whether those two-thirds of abusive priests weren't told that God will forgive them if they only confess to their homosexuality?

Selective belief in science is the same tack that those who claim to be able to cure a person of homosexuality take. There may not be anywhere near the amount of research connecting homosexuality to pedophilia as there is refuting that connection. But if those peddling a cure keep saying it over and over again, someone is bound to believe it.

Perhaps the best example of this is Richard Cohen's International Healing Foundation. As MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pointed out in an interview with Cohen, his latest book has a passage explicitly connecting homosexuality with pedophilia, which is based on previously discredited research. Still, in black and white Cohen writes:

Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least 7 times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.

Is this perhaps the same "document written by psychologists" that the Pope's right-hand man was referring to? (And if you're looking for some online sources of non-discredited science on the issue, check out these studies excepted by the Human Rights Council or Dr. Gregory Herek's blog, Beyond Homophobia.)

Now, you may object that Cohen is profiting from this venture, as opposed to the Catholic Church's stake in the debate. Of course he would try to convince potential "patients" to buy his books by scaring them into believing they could hurt a child if they don't. 

But much as Cohen's misguided venture suffers from the truth as uncovered by scientific inquiry into homosexuality, the Vatican has always been on the opposing end of non-ideological research. And with the list of people they can blame for this scandal getting smaller and smaller, we shouldn't be surprised that they turn to the same kind of junk science that Cohen and others who claim to "cure" gay people use to try to justify blaming homosexuals instead of themselves.

I can't imagine whom the Catholic Church is going to blame next; with my luck it'll be unmarried female bloggers. But they will run out of marginalized groups eventually, and in the end they can take responsibility for this culture of abuse, or they can fade into history.

Regardless of the path they choose, no one is going to take scientific assertions from the guys who condemned Galileo and Copernicus. The Vatican had already been discredited on science and will soon lose all credibility in terms of morality as well.