Pope Francis has admitted that 1 in 50 priests, including high ranking Vatican officials, are pedophiles who sometimes rape children.
According to the Pontiff, although acts of pedophilia should be seen as a “grave sin,” Catholics should remember that forgiving people of their sins is their duty to God.
A recent investigation by an Australian inquiry uncovered evidence that the Pope may be grossly underestimating the real number of priests who abuse children. According to the Australian commission, 1 in 14 priests are likely to be pedophiles.
The commission also discovered evidence of “witness intimidation” against alleged victims.
Daily Mail reports: 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.
In a mass before the meeting, he begged abuse survivors for forgiveness for the ‘sacrilegious’ crimes committed by ‘the sons and daughters of the Church who have betrayed their mission’.
British abuse victim Peter Saunders, 57, who was molested for more than five years by two priests, a teacher and a member of his family from the age of eight, described the experience as ‘life-changing’.
The first cases of abuse at the hands of priests came to light in the US and Canada in the 1980s. In the 1990s, revelations began to emerge of widespread abuse in Ireland, before cases were exposed in more than a dozen countries in the last decade.
In 2009, two damning reports into allegations of paedophilia in Ireland revealed the extent of cover-ups spanned decades and involved thousands of victims.
Last week the Pope said the Catholic Church had been guilty of ‘complicity’ in covering up what he called ‘despicable actions’ and ‘grave sins’.
He said members of the Catholic Church should ‘weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left life-long scars’.