Vatican: Abusive Priests Not Pedophiles, but ’Ephebophiles’

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Sep 29, 2009

When the Catholic Church took action on the pedophile priest scandal, it was to deny gay men entry into seminaries and, from there, into its priestly ranks--a move criticized by those who pointed out that pedophiles are not homosexuals.

Often, pedophiles are heterosexuals, even though they may molest children of either gender.

However, one Vatican official, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who serves as the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations, has made the claim that the clerical abuses that rocked the Catholic church and stunned the faithful the world over were not committed by pedophiles, but rather by "ephebophiles"--men attracted to adolescent boys.

In terms of the crude smearing of gays with the deeds of abusive priest, this may be a distinction without a meaningful difference.

Tomasi's claim was reported in an article posted Sept. 29 at Catholic

The article mainly reported on Tomasi's response to a call from the International Humanist and Ethical Union's Porteous Wood's call for the church to take meaningful action in terms of taking responsibility for the incidents of child molestation committed by its priests, as well as working to ensure that future abuses do not take place.

The article, which characterized Wood's call as an "attack," quoted Wood as saying, "The many thousands of victims of abuse deserve the international community to hold the Vatican to account, something it has been unwilling to do, so far."

Added Wood, "Both states and children's organizations must unite to pressurize the Vatican to open its files, change its procedures worldwide, and report suspected abusers to civil authorities."

Tomasi was reported to have responded to this by stating, "As the Catholic Church has been busy cleaning its own house, 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."

Tommasi also suggested that because other faiths also have problems with pedophiles in positions of authority, the church's own pedophile scandal is not as serious as the media has made it out to be.

A Sept. 28 Guardian article reported that Tommasi read a statement after the UN human rights council had met in Geneva, noting that only a tiny minority of Catholic priests--around 1.5%--had been involved in abuses.

Tommasi also said that Protestant denominations had been affected by child abuse within their ranks, and that Judaism, too, had its share of such abuses.

The Guardian noted that Tommasi further made note of the fact that in many instances of child abuse, a relative or friend of the family is the perpetrator.

Tomasi went on to make his claim that the abuses had been committed by ephebophiles, rather than pedophiles.

"Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17," Tomasi asserted.

News media reports have tended to focus on the priests who allegedly abused much younger victims, sometimes serially so as their superiors shifted them around the country in order to avoid abuses coming to light.

The tragic side effect of that strategy was to expose more parishes to the predations of abusive priests.

Media accounts of the pedophile priest scandal and its aftermath have been full of accounts of men who claimed to have abused as young children, well short of their teenage years.

However, when those claims have involved "recovered" memories supposedly long dormant, some doubt comes into play; many mental health professionals and others have expressed uncertainty that such "recovered" memories are genuine.

The church has paid out billions in settlements around the world--about $2 billion in the U.S. alone--but even the financial remedies have been fraught with complications. Media reports have noted that some of the alleged victims of abuse who received large sums of money went into personal tailspins, with further anguish the result for themselves and their families.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • , 2009-09-29 20:47:10

    "Tomasi went on to make his claim that the abuses had been committed by ephebophiles, rather than pedophiles." Sooooo. it is still a crime against kids.. Judy Jones

  • , 2009-09-30 00:32:19

    On the Holy See’s Response to the U.N. and Tom Reese’s Response to Roman Polanski Thomas Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C. September 29, 2009 The International Humanist and Ethical Union, in a speech given at the U.N. on September 22, took the Vatican to task for its cover-up of reports of sexual abuse by clerics. Predictably the Holy See responded but the response was much less measured and more emotional than usual. Both have been widely covered by religious and secular media. After reading both statements, it’s clear that the IHEU was dead on target and the Holy See was delusional as usual. The author of the Holy See’s response was Archbishop Silvio Tommasi, listed in the media as the Permanent Observer to the Holy See. According to the Vatican’s official list of prelates, the Annuario Pontificio, Tommasi is actually not the Vatican ambassador to the Holy See. He holds the curious title of being Papal Nuncio to Nowhere which means he’s sort of an official Vatican floater. No matter. He made the statement and he said dumb things which is pretty much what one expects from any official Church source when it tries to wriggle out of any responsibility for the nightmare that won’t go away. All of his defenses are the usual knee-jerk, minimizing bromides that no thinking person believes. The amazing thing is that the Holy See still seems to think that these excuses hold water. They would actually be better off saying nothing than saying something stupid. I must admit that I was both surprised and disappointed at Tom Reese’s column in the Washington Post. He said some of the "right" things but missed an essential point. Roman Polanski and priests who rape children are far from analogous. Roman Polanski was a Hollywood director, not a Roman Catholic priest. He didn’t hold a position of immense trust nor did he come from an "industry" that preached chastity, purity and a sky-high standard of sexual morality. But even more important, Roman did not have an archbishop or a cardinal in his corner who would lie about what he had done, intimidate his victims and then send him off where he could find yet more young people to devastate. The movie industry never tried to present a systematized illusion that all of its directors, producers and name a few...were paragons of virtue. That’s what the official Catholic Church has done and that’s a major difference between Roman Polanski and the priests. Any attempt at defending accused clerics that comes forth from the institutional Church comes with an immediate lack of credibility simply because of the abominable track record of the Church at every level of authority. The pity-party for priests is baseless when one recalls that in the past quarter century no Diocesan Priests’ Council, no unofficial gathering of priests in fact no clergy organization of any kind ever said one word of public support for the innocent and trusting people who have been ripped apart by sexual and spiritual abuse.

  • , 2009-10-01 17:35:01

    The IHEU statement mentioned child abuse but did not specify only sexual abuse. Anyone who is aware of the recent Ryan Report in Ireland will know that the Church is guilty of other kinds of abuse. But the "reply" focused entirely on sexual abuse. And it simply did not address the problem of the insitutional culture of cover-up and avoidance of the secular authorities.

  • , 2009-10-02 09:56:12

    On 22 September, speaking in the plenary of the UN Human Rights Council, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), representing more that 100 humanist, secular and free-thought organisations in over 40 countries, criticised the Holy See over its role in covering up the scale of child abuse by its priests and religious orders, and for failing to honour its obligations under international law. The statement was based on a longer written statement submitted to the Council in August and published by the UN on 8 September ( The IHEU statement addressed specifically the role of the Holy See - which claims responsibility for the Catholic Church worldwide - in attempting to cover up the extent of child abuse perpetrated by its priests and religious orders. In exercising their right of reply to this criticism the representative of the Holy See ignored the main criticism contained in our statement. The reply made on behalf of the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Thomasi argued that the Catholic Church was not unique in having clergy who sexually abused children and young people, but it made no mention of the physical and mental abuse meted out for generations to children under the care of its religious orders. No doubt there are abusers in all walks of life, but our point was not the abuse itself but the cover up in which some of the highest officials of the Church were implicated. The Holy See is a sovereign state and its senior clergy, safely ensconced in the Vatican out of reach of civil law, are answerable to no earthly power other than themselves - and to the few international treaties to which they are party. One such is the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and, as shown in the IHEU report, the Holy See is in massive breach of its obligations under that convention. Commenting on the Holy See’s response, IHEU Main Representative in Geneva, Roy Brown, said: "By failing to address this issue while seeking to point the finger of blame elsewhere, the Holy See’ has scored a spectacular own goal. One senior UN official described their reply as ’a disgrace’. We agree."

Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook