United Press International
News. Analysis. Insight.
May 2, 2002
Italy church has sex problems too
ROME -- Italian Roman Catholics view child sex scandals in the church as a largely American phenomenon, a new survey released on
Thursday shows, despite revelations that European Catholic communities have had their own problems in this regard.
The Italian polling firm Opinioni said a majority of those questioned saw the problem of pedophilia and child molestation among priests
as a problem "exclusive to" or "most serious in" the United States.
A total of 55 percent agreed with one of the two statements. Only 21 percent saw the problem as equally serious in Europe and the
The findings were reported a week after the highly publicized meeting between Pope John Paul II and eight American cardinals to
discuss the sex problems of the American church -- and just a day after a leading Catholic magazine reported at least seven Italian
priests have been sent to prison for pedophilia.
"The meeting between the pope and the American cardinals served to create the impression that the problem is an American problem,"
Opinioni vice-director Maria Rossi told United Press International.
The meeting did not garner nearly as much attention in Italy as it did in the United States, but Rossi did say the media attention
surrounding the meetings was enough to register with Italians.
It was the magazine Famiglia Cristiana which revealed Wednesday that at least seven priests in Italy had been sent to prison on
pedophilia charges. The magazine gave no details, but did report that two more priests are under investigation on suspicion of
pedophilia and child molestation, and that "dozens" more priests have been given psychiatric treatment for disorders that include
"It is hard to know how widespread pedophilia is," the Rev. Giannantonio Fincato told Famiglia Cristiana. Father Fincato heads a
rehabilitation program in northern Italy treating six priests. "A pedophile priest hides it, just like any other pedophile."
Vatican sources said the pope's meeting with the American cardinals was only the second time in history that a pontiff has summoned
the senior clerics of a national hierarchy. The first time was in 1989 and also involved the U.S. church.
On that occasion, relations between the American Catholic church and the Vatican were seriously strained because Rome felt that U.S.
bishops were lax in enforcing the church's ban against contraception and were allowing divorced couples to receive communion.
Normally, cardinals are called to Rome only for a concistory -- a ceremony in which the pope names new cardinals -- or when a pope
dies to elect his successor.
Although the U.S. cardinals said they had been called to Rome by John Paul II, Vatican officials told UPI Thursday the meeting had taken
place at their request.
"Only the pope can call a meeting of cardinals," a Vatican official said. "They cannot call one themselves -- though they can request that
one be called."
Other officials said that no similar meetings were planned for Italian cardinals to discuss pedophile priests in the Italian church, and the
same was true of other European churches facing similar sex problems.
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