A firestorm of criticism has erupted involving Cardinal Peter Turkson (pictured), who could be next in line to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, all because he has publicly suggested that gay priests are in part to blame for the child sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church that have broken and rippled worldwide.
Turkson, who spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on February 12 about possibly stepping into the highly revered papal spot, discussed the sex scandals and their outreach across the U.S. and Europe — and whether there was a possibility of it reaching African shores. The 64-year-old Cardinal responded:
“Not in the same proportion as we have seen in Europe,” Turkson said. “Probably because African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency. Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa, homosexuality, or for that matter, any affair between two sexes of the same kind are not countenanced in our society. So, that cultural ‘taboo,’ that tradition has been there. It’s helped to keep this out.”
As soon as Turkson made his statement about the Catholic Church sex scandals, he was immediately slammed by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We hear less about clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Africa for the same reasons we do throughout the developing world — there tends to be lesser funding for law enforcement, less vigorous civil justice systems, less independent journalism, and an even greater power and wealth difference between church officials and their congregants,” a spokesperson for the organization said in a statement via the Daily Mail.
Turkson also created quite a controversial stir last year when he condoned Uganda’s draconian penalties for homosexuality. When Turkson spoke to the National Catholic Register last year he stated that while the penalties imposed by such laws as the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill in Uganda are “exaggerated,” the desire of many Africans and African leaders to incarcerate or even execute their gay citizens is “understandable” and that the reaction to homosexuality in Africa is ingrained stating the, “intensity of the reaction is probably commensurate with tradition.”
The Cardinal, who is also president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace even chastised U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for calling on African countries to end the criminalization of homosexuality stating:
[The Church pushes] for the rights of prisoners [and] the rights of others, and the last thing we want to do is infringe upon the rights of anyone. But when you’re talking about what’s called ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ are those human rights? [ Ban Ki-moon] needs to recognize there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales contradict the Cardinal’s explosive line of thinking, they contend that:
“…there is no empirical data which concludes that sexual orientation is connected to child sexual abuse. The consensus among researchers is that the sexual abuse of children is not a question of sexual ‘orientation,’ whether heterosexual or homosexual, but of a disordered attraction or ‘fixation.’ Many abusers of children have never developed the capacity for mature adult relationships. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or both. In the sexual abuse of children the issue is the sexual fixation of the abusers and not their sexual orientation.”