A 75-year-old Italian priest, Don Gino Flaim, has been suspended from his functions at the San Pio X church in Trent, northern Italy, after he made comments in which he appeared to "justify" paedophilia.
Speaking to Italian current affairs TV programme, “The Way The Wind Is Blowing”, Don Gino said: “I can understand paedophilia. Homosexuality, I don’t know, I think it’s a sickness. I have worked a lot with schools and I know children.
“Unfortunately, there are children who seek out affection because they do not receive it at home. And maybe if they come across some priest, well maybe he will yield (to temptation). I understand this ... It doesn’t surprise me that these type of cases exist because the Church is a community of sinners”.
Don Gino’s words prompted an immediate series of protests from local politicians.
Archbishop of Trent, Luigi Bressan, intervened both to disassociate the archdiocese from Don Gino's comments and to suspend him from his role of "pastoral collaborator".
“The Church in Trent fully disassociates itself from the statements made by one of our elderly diocesan priests to the TV channel, La 7,” he said.
“Interviewed by the TV reporter in an entirely casual context, he expressed sentiments which in no way represent either the position of the archdiocese of Trento or the feelings of the entirely ecclesiastical community.”
The TV crew from La 7 had travelled to Trent on Monday in order to prepare a programme about the Venturini Convent, an institution which helps priests confront difficult personal problems including sexual issues, alcoholism, gambling and much else besides. Given the polemics created by the "coming out" last Saturday of Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a senior official at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (ex-Holy Office), the role of the Venturini Convent has attracted much media attention.
Mario Bonfanti, a homosexual priest formerly based in Sardinia, this week claimed that the Vatican sends gay priests to the convent in a bid to "cure" them, helping them "rediscover the straight and narrow".
Bonfanti told daily, La Repubblica, that he had been ordered to go to the convent three years ago to "reflect" on his life and future after it emerged that he was homosexual, adding:
“There exists a convent where priests who manifest inappropriate sexual tendencies are sent to reflect. It’s a place where they help you to rediscover the straight and narrow. They wanted to ‘cure’ me but I refused to go.”
These most recent polemics come against the background of the ongoing Synod on the Family at the Vatican, where one of many issues being discussed concerns how Catholic families might best deal with and accept a gay family member.