Rafael Navarro-VallsA Dutch judge decided in July 2006
that the pedophile party Party
for Neighbourly Love, Freedom, and Diversity
(Partij voor Naastenliefde, Vrijheid en Diversiteit, PVND) could not
be banned: “The freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly and the
freedom of association … should be seen as the foundations of the democratic
rule of law and the PNVD is also entitled to these freedoms.” The objectives of
this political party were: lowering the age of consent to 12 for sex,
legalizing child pornography, supporting the hardcore porn broadcast on daytime
television and allowing bestiality. The party has recently dissolved.
Apparently, this was due to a tough campaign launched on all fronts, including the
internet, by a Catholic priest, Fr Fortunato di Noto, who has been relentless
in the fight against paedophilia.

This good news, whose hero is a Catholic
priest, is matched by bad news, also featuring priests of this confession. I mean
the media storm sparked by some priests who sexually abused children. These are
the details: 3,000 cases of diocesan priests involved in crimes in the past 50
years, although not all were found guilty. According to
Msgr Charles J. Sicluna
whose role is analogous to a Vatican District Attorney for these crimes — “60
percent of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction towards adolescents of
the same sex, another 30 percent involved heterosexual relations, and the
remaining 10 percent were cases of paedophilia in the true sense of the term;
that is, based on sexual attraction towards prepubescent children. The cases of
priests accused of paedophilia in the true sense have been about 300 in nine
years. Please don’t misunderstand me, these are of course too many, but it must
be recognised that the phenomenon is not as widespread as has been believed. ”

Indeed, if one considers that today there
are about 500,000 diocesan and religious priests, this data-without ceasing to
be sad, puts the percentage at not more than 0.6%. The most solid scientific
work that I know of is by a non-Catholic author, Philip Jenkins — Pedophiles
and Priest, Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis
(Oxford University Press). His
thesis is that the proportion of clergy with sexual disorder problem is lower
in the Catholic Church than in other confessions. And above all, it is much
less than in other organisations. If the spotlight is on the Catholic Church,
it is because of the centralization of the church in Rome, which collects
enormous amounts of information and knows the problems far better than other
institutions and organizations, religious or not.

There are two recent examples that confirm Jenkins’s
analysis. Information recently
released by Austrian authorities
indicates that, in the same period, there
were 17 cases of reported sexual abuse in church-related institutions, while in
other settings there were 510. According to a report published by Luigi Accatoli,
of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, of the 210,000 registered cases
of sexual abuse in Germany since 1995, only 94 are related to people or
institutions of the Catholic Church. That represents 0.045 percent.

I get the impression that an artificial
climate of “moral panic” is being generated… The campaign recalls the
black legends about the topic in medieval Europe, the Tudor England,
revolutionary France or the Nazi Germany. I agree with Jenkins when he
observes: “the power of the continuing pedophile propaganda issue was one
of the means of propaganda and harassment used by politicians, in their attempt
to break the power of the German Catholic Church, especially in the field of
education and social services. ” This idea sheds light on a comment by Himmler:
“Nobody knows what is happening behind the walls of the monasteries and in
the ranks of the community of Rome.”

… this issue has its roots in the 60s and 70s,
but emerged early in the new millennium because of its economic impact and the
reparation for the victims. These were the years of sexual revolution when
people discovered, among other likes and dislikes, the “novelty” of
pedophilia, and set about, inter alia, demolishing the “walls”
erected to prevent sexual contact between adults and minors. Who does not
remember — around that time — Mrs Robinson and Lolita …? If one delves a
bit, then one can see that some of the most rigorous “moralists” of
today were most active apostles of the sexual liberation in the 60s and 70s.

This revolution also affected some clerical
environments. Some Catholic universities in America and Europe developed a
misconceived teaching about human sexuality and moral theology. Some of the
seminarians of that generation were infected and then acted in an unworthy way.
John Paul II strongly confronted this corruption, and even revoked permission
to teach from some lecturers. Charles
, is a good example of that trend…

Faced with the problem, the Church is one
of the few institutions that had not closed the windows and barricaded the doors
until the storm passes… It has stood up to the problem, has toughened its laws,
has apologized to the victims, has given compensation and has become ruthless
with the aggressors…  

This is an edited version of an article in the
Spanish newspaper El Mundo on March 21. Rafael Navarro-Valls is professor of
law at the Complutense University in Madrid, and secretary-general of the
Spanish Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation.


Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet. He lives in Sydney, Australia.