Pope Francis: 1 in 50 members of clergy are pedophiles

The pope also hints at a willingness to consider letting priests get married

Published July 13, 2014 7:21PM (EDT)

  (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

As many as 1 in 50 — or 2 percent — of the Catholic Church's clergy members are pedophiles, according to pope Francis in an interview published by Italy's La Repubblica on Sunday. In the interview, the pope also referred to pedophilia within the church as a form of "leprosy" and strongly hinted that he'd be at least interested in exploring lifting the church's ban on priests getting married.

Out of a global number of roughly 414,000, the 2 percent figure Francis provided would mean there are about 8,000 clergy members today who are sexually attracted to minors.

Francis also noted in the interview that priestly celibacy was instituted nearly a millennium after Jesus Christ's death, and that the church currently allows some Eastern Orthodox churches that are technically under the Vatican's tutelage to allow their priests to wed.

"There definitely is a problem but it is not a major one. This needs time but there are solutions and I will find them," pope Francis said.

The Vatican, however, has taken issue with La Repubblica's interview, criticizing it as taking the pope's words out of context. "This is not at all an interview in the normal sense of the word," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said. He further accused the publication of "manipulating" its readers.

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Off-the-cuff statements made by the Pope often lend themselves to ambiguity, according to the BBC. Although wanting to show a more compassionate attitude towards Church teaching than his predecessors, this can sometimes cause consternation among his advisers, the BBC reported.

The interview was the third in a series with the 90-year-old founder of La Repubblica daily, Eugenio Scalfari, a famous journalist and known atheist.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Al Jazeera Catholic Church Celibacy Child Abuse La Repubblica Marriage Pedophile Pedophilia Pope Francis Priests