By Simon Caldwell
(Mail Online) The African cardinal widely tipped to be the first black pope in modern history faced a firestorm of criticism last night after he laid the blame for clerical sex abuse crises at the feet of gay priests.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, who comes from Ghana, told an American journalist that similar sex scandals would never convulse churches in Africa because the culture was inimical to homosexuality.
‘African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency,’ he told Christiane Amanpour of CCN.
‘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,’ he continued.
‘So that cultural taboo, that tradition has been there,’ said Cardinal Turkson, 64. ‘It has served to keep it out.’
As the head of a major Vatican department – the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace - Cardinal Turkson is ranked as the 5/2 second favourite to take the papal crown when a Conclave of Cardinals meets next month to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who announced his abdication last week on the grounds of ill health
Catholics throughout the African continent and the developing world are praying that he will be chosen ahead of the Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, who Paddy Power has made its 9/4 favourite.
But his public comments blaming homosexual priests in for the sexual abuse of many hundreds of children in Europe, the United States and Australia mean his election would be severely criticised in the West.
Ruth Hunt, Stonewall director of public affairs, was among those to swiftly condemn his remarks.
‘Cardinal Turkson’s comments show a surprisingly callous disregard for the human rights of millions of people worldwide,’ she told the Times.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests accused the cardinal of hiding behind a ‘weak shield’.
A spokesman said: ‘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.’
But one NHS psychiatrist who has researched the field of clerical sex abuse agreed with the cardinal that homosexual abuse of adolescent males rather than paedophile attacks on children characterised the problem.
‘I would say he is correct,’ said the doctor, who asked not to be named in fear of reprisals - including the loss of his job.
‘Where the research has been done – for example in the United States and Australia – in the region of 80 per cent of the victims of sex abuse by priests are adolescent males rather than children...’ (continued)