The Pope Might Have Said Two Percent of Priests are Pedophiles

A new piece in Italian newspaper La Repubblica purportedly quotes Pope Francis saying that one in 50 Roman Catholic priests, about two percent, are pedophiles. Vatican officials, however, question the provenance of the quotes and information in the story.

The journalist who wrote the story, Eugenio Scalfari, is apparently known for not recording his interviews and relying purely on memory to piece together his stories. The quote by Pope Francis in question, according to CBS News' translation:

"The 2 percent of pedophiles are priests, and even bishops and cardinals," the pope allegedly said. "And others, even more numerous, know about it but keep quiet, they punish without saying the reason why. I find this state of things untenable and it is my intention to confront it with the severity it requires."

The story was published Sunday, and News.va, the Vatican's official news site, questions the accuracy of these quotes, but falls just short of completely denying them. News.va cites Vatican Press Office Director Father Federico Lombardi SJ's release:

Lombardi says that, just as in other similar occasions, Scalfari quotes the Pope's words using quotation marks; however – he points out – Scalfari relies only on memory as the conversation is not transcribed or recorded, nor does the Pope check or revise the article before it is published.

Therefore, Lombardi says, one must not consider it an "interview" in the habitual sense of the word as the journalist's questions and the Pope's answers are not related "word for word". In this regard one must be especially careful, he continues, regarding some "quotes" that seem to affirm there are cardinals amongst the pedophiles, and that the Pope says he will find solutions regarding the celibacy of priests.

Lombardi points out that reading the article published in 'La Repubblica', these statements are clearly attributed to the Pope, but – curiously – the quotation marks are opened at the beginning of the paragraph and never closed… "A lapse of memory or an explicit acknowledgement the naïf reader is being manipulated?"

And according to the Los Angeles Times, more than two percent of priests may be pedophiles:

Meanwhile, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the "real percentage of predator priests" is much higher than 2% and called on the pope to defrock clerics who participate in cover-ups.

"I'm convinced that no threat of penalty will deter a child molester," David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, told the Los Angeles Times. However, he said, "defrocking a bishop or cardinal who hides abuse would have an enormous deterrent effect."

The story in La Repubblica comes a week after Pope Francis met with a group of sexual abuse victims to ask for their forgiveness.

[Image via AP]