Pope Francis

Pope Francis marched into one of the Catholic Church’s most prominent scandals of the last generation, priests molesting children. Pope Francis compared pedophilia in the Catholic Church to leprosy and claimed that it had infected the Church. He went further to offer an estimate, provided in consultation with his advisors, that about 2% of the clergy are pedophiles.

If accurate the BBC calculated that would “represent around 8,000 priests out of a global number of about 414,000.” So 8,000 members of the clergy are sexually attracted to children and may be molesting those in their proximity and care.

The molestation issue has come to partly define the Catholic Church in the public’s mind and represents one of Pope Francis’ biggest challenges. Previous popes have been unable or unwilling to address the systemic abuse of children or stop the cover ups which have led to lawsuits, prosecutions, and numerous followers leaving the Church.

“Among the 2% who are paedophiles are priests, bishops and cardinals. Others, more numerous, know but keep quiet. They punish without giving the reason,” Pope Francis was quoted as saying.

“I find this state of affairs intolerable,” he went on.

There is some controversy over exactly what the Pope said and whether he included cardinals among those who were pedophiles. Cardinals are some of the highest ranking officials in the Catholic Church and decide who becomes the Pope.

The Pope also seemed to question the efficacy of celibacy among priests which he noted was put in place 900 years after the alleged death of Jesus Christ and also noted the Eastern Orthodox Church allowed priests to marry.

Pope Francis has claimed the mantle of reform and rooting out child rapists and dropping the celibacy requirement would certainly be a change to the way the Catholic Church was previously operating.

Photo by Dcastor under Creative Commons license.