The Slatest

Pope Francis Says “About 2 Percent” of Catholic Clergy Are Pedophiles

Pope Francis.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Pope Francis touched on particularly thorny issues confronting the Catholic Church during an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica published on Sunday. The Pope—known for extemporaneous remarks that at times simultaneously delight and confound his followers—addressed the lingering questions of sexual abuse in the church, saying about “2 percent” of the church’s clergy are pedophiles and pledged to “confront it with the severity it demands.” “Among the 2% who are paedophiles are priests, bishops and cardinals. Others, more numerous, know but keep quiet. They punish without giving the reason,” the Pope was quoted saying by La Repubblica. “I find this state of affairs intolerable.”

“In the interview, Pope Francis was quoted as saying that the 2% estimate came from advisers. It would represent around 8,000 priests out of a global number of about 414,000,” the BBC reports. “While the incidence of paedophilia in the general population is not accurately known, some estimates have put it at less than five percent.” The Holy See also gave his thoughts on the celibacy rule for priests, a restriction that he has hinted at being open to discussing in the past. His remarks published on Sunday, similarly indicated an openness to amending the church’s celibacy policy. Here’s more from the BBC:

Asked in the same La Repubblica interview about the celibacy rule for priests, Pope Francis recalled that it was adopted 900 years after the death of Jesus Christ and pointed out that the Eastern Catholic Church allows its priests to marry. “The problem certainly exists but it is not on a large scale. It will need time but the solutions are there and I will find them.”

Once the remarks were published, however, it didn’t take long for the Vatican to push back on the journalist—Eugenio Scalfari, La Repubblica’s founder and former editor-in-chief—and his interpretation of the pontiff’s statements. “[A] few hours after the account of Scalfari’s conversation with the Pope was published, Father Federico Lombardi, official Vatican spokesman, issued a strongly worded statement calling Scalfari’s account of the conversation into question,” La Repubblica reports. “Father Lombardi was particularly keen to undermine Scalfari’s recollection of the remarks on paedophilia and those on celibacy, even hinting that the pontiff may have been deliberately misquoted.”

Here’s what Father Lombardi had to say:

“One cannot and one must not speak in any way of an interview in the usual sense of the word… The conversation was cordial and very interesting and touched principally on the themes of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and the Church’s attitude towards the mafia. However… it is important to note that the words that Mr Scalfari attributes to the Pope, reporting his words in quotation marks, are from the memory of an experienced journalist, but not a precise transcription or recording, nor have they been approved by the person to whom the remarks are attributed.”

“In the article published in La Repubblica these two affirmations are clearly attributed to the Pope, but  –  curiously –  the quotation marks were opened at the beginning but were not closed at the end… An oversight or explicit recognition that it is an attempt to manipulate some ingenuous readers?”