We’re filthy degenerates. But so are you.

Amazingly, that seems to be the line from the Vatican these days. In a childish “I know I am, but what are you?” approach, the Vatican has pointed the finger at other major religions, accusing them of having their own paedophilia scandals to look after.

The Vatican has lashed out at criticism over its handling of its paedophilia crisis by saying the Catholic church was “busy cleaning its own house” and that the problems with clerical sex abuse in other churches were as big, if not bigger.

Unbelievable. While its organisations in Ireland (for example) continue to evade responsibility for the massive damage done to children in their care throughout the 20th century, the Vatican thinks it’s appropriate to engage in some traditional mud-slinging. Not only that, but they thought they’d throw in a healthy does of homophobia too – I mean, why change the habit of a lifetime?

In a defiant and provocative statement, issued following a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva, the Holy See said the majority of Catholic clergy who committed such acts were not paedophiles but homosexuals attracted to sex with adolescent males.

What’s the point they’re trying to make here? “We were all at it, so you can’t single out the Catholics and in any case, it was the gays”? The bottom line is that hundreds of men in their employ physically and sexually abused children for decades and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church protected them from the law and the consequences of their actions. Moving them from parish to parish, where they were free to begin abusing all over again. The Church had a duty of care towards these most vulnerable of children and they let them down horribly.

This argument of relativity is a pointless one. It’s not enough to say abuse exists in other religions – we know that already. What the Catholic Church needs to do is get its own house in order before looking externally for comparisons. Trying to distract the world’s attention from its failure to deal with abuse by drawing attention to other organisations’ failures is a weak and transparent move.

Of all the world religions, Roman Catholicism has been hardest hit by sex abuse scandals. In the US, churches have paid more than $2bn (£1.25bn) in compensation to victims. In Ireland, reports into clerical sexual abuse have rocked both the Catholic hierarchy and the state.

The Ryan Report, published last May, revealed that beatings and humiliation by nuns and priests were common at institutions that held up to 30,000 children. A nine-year investigation found that Catholic priests and nuns for decades terrorised thousands of boys and girls, while government inspectors failed to stop the abuse.

The Vatican needs to learn some humility, something it has traditionally lacked. And it needs to get used to being questioned and challenged. It was an over-riding unwillingness to ask “awkward” questions that allowed the paedophile priests to continue their abuse in Ireland for so long, combined with the fawning attitude of the Government. The Catholic Church is not above the law.

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