Pope Francis was quoted as saying 2 percent of priests are pedophiles in an interview published Sunday by Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
"Among the 2 percent 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, Slate reported
. "I find this state of affairs intolerable."
The BBC reported
that the statistic was said to have come from the pope's advisors, and would mean that roughly 8,000 priests out of 414,000 worldwide are prone to child abuse.
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Pope Francis described the abuse as "the most terrible and unclean (act) imaginable," and said it was like "leprosy" infecting the church.
It is unknown how much of the general population is prone to pedophilia, but some estimates have placed it at less than five percent.
Later on in the article, Francis was said to have commented on the question of celibacy and marriage in regard to priests. He recalled that the celibacy rule was adopted 900 years after the death of Jesus Christ, and pointed out that the Eastern Catholic Church allows priests to marry.
Almost immediately after the article was published in La Repubblica, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi issued a statement attempting to call into question the exact wording that the pope may have used in his conversation with the magazine's interviewer, Eugenio Scalfari.
"The conversation [between Scalfari and Pope Francis] 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," read part of Lombardi's statement.
"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."
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