The Vatican's representative at the United Nations has shocked listeners with a defensive speech suggesting that there could be more child abuse within Protestant and Jewish communities than in the Roman Catholic Church.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi insisted that the Catholic Church was “busy cleaning its own house” and added that “it would be good if other institutions and authorities, where the major part of abuses are reported, could do the same and inform the media about it."
Tomasi's decision to single out Protestants and Jews may harm the Vatican's relations with these groups.
"Comparative tragedy is a dangerous path on which to travel” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis, “All of us need to look within our own communities. Child abuse is sinful and shameful”.
However, Tomasi admitted that between 1.5 per cent and 5 per cent of Catholic priests were involved in child sexual abuse. This appears to be a higher number than the Vatican has previously accepted.
The Archbishop argued that the word “paedophile” was incorrectly applied in the majority of cases, on the grounds that most priests involved in abuse were attracted to adolescents rather than pre-pubescent children.
He triggered an angry response from equality campaigners by suggesting that the vast majority of abusive priests were homosexual.
“The Catholic Church has been trying to blame its sex abuse problems on gay men since day one, in order to avoid its own responsibility for ordaining and protecting paedophiles” said the American activist, Melissa McEwan.
She insisted that “The Catholic Church has a problem with priests who rape children below the age of consent. That is a fact which is not changed by what name it's called”