After the Pope and the Catholic Church at large failed miserably at placating the angry and disgusted masses after the public became aware of the widespread child abuse scandal, the Vatican's top diplomat was deployed to explain what had happened.
That didn't go over so well (for obvious reasons). So let's pick on another historically marginalized group, the Holy See must have reasoned. How about the Jews? They don't like Pope Benedict's Nazi connections anyway, so little love lost there! As you may have guessed, that attempt fared badly too.
Enter the diplomat. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state at the Vatican, said that it's homosexuals that bear the blame for the culture of child abuse that flourishes among Catholic priests. In an address in Chile this week, Bertone justified the blame game with pseudoscience:
Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia, but many others have shown and I've been told recently that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is the truth. I read it in a document written by psychologists, so that is the problem.
"This is a scientific absurdity. The World Health Organization calls homosexuality a variation of human behavior. It is pedophilia that is a pathology, a crime, not homosexuality," said Franco Grillini, a former parliamentarian who was at the vanguard of Italy's gay rights movement.
"Because they have their own problems with the abuse crisis and don't know how to handle it, they are trying to pass their 'cross' from their shoulders on to ours," Grillini told Reuters.
In response to the outrage, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi presented Church statistics that indicated that two-thirds of abusive priests are homosexual. So, when Bertone says he knows that homosexuality is a pathology because he read it somewhere, he's probably talking about the Vatican's own writings on the subject, not say, the World Health Organization's.
But, much as I wouldn't buy a textbook from the Texas school board, I'm not going to accept wild "scientific" assertions from a group who will only accept scientific facts that do not conflict with Church dogma. How should I know whether those two-thirds of abusive priests weren't told that God will forgive them if they only confess to their homosexuality?
Selective belief in science is the same tack that those who claim to be able to cure a person of homosexuality take. There may not be anywhere near the amount of research connecting homosexuality to pedophilia as there is refuting that connection. But if those peddling a cure keep saying it over and over again, someone is bound to believe it.
Perhaps the best example of this is Richard Cohen's International Healing Foundation. As MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pointed out in an interview with Cohen, his latest book has a passage explicitly connecting homosexuality with pedophilia, which is based on previously discredited research. Still, in black and white Cohen writes:
Is this perhaps the same "document written by psychologists" that the Pope's right-hand man was referring to? (And if you're looking for some online sources of non-discredited science on the issue, check out these studies excepted by the Human Rights Council or Dr. Gregory Herek's blog, Beyond Homophobia.)
Now, you may object that Cohen is profiting from this venture, as opposed to the Catholic Church's stake in the debate. Of course he would try to convince potential "patients" to buy his books by scaring them into believing they could hurt a child if they don't.