Thursday, May 13, 2004
WASHINGTON — A Republican congressman who is Roman Catholic said Thursday the Vatican has no right to criticize the United States for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners because of the Catholic Church's history of abusing children and covering up its actions.
"If there's anyone in the world who has no right to speak on sexual abuse, it's the Vatican," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. "This is the height of hypocrisy."
In an interview published Wednesday in the Rome daily La Repubblica, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo described the prisoner abuses as "a tragic episode in the relationship with Islam" and said the scandal would fuel hatred for the West and for Christianity.
"The torture? A more serious blow to the United States than Sept. 11. Except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves," Lajolo said.
"Whatever the United States has done to prisoners in Iraq is nothing compared to what priests and nuns did to Catholic kids for decades while the Catholic hierarchy covered it up," King said. "Think of the thousands of kids in the U.S. and Ireland who were abused by priests and nuns - you wonder where the Vatican's moral compass is."
King said the U.S. military's investigation into the prison abuses show America has responded admirably to the problem. In contrast, the church has not done enough to fix its own problems or apologize for them, he said.
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said the archbishop's statements show anti-American sentiment within the Vatican.
"This man is an absolute embarrassment to the Catholic Church. I read that and I was just boiling over," said Donohue.
Donohue said he disagreed with King's contention that the church should not speak out about abuse issues, but called the archbishop's comparison of the abuse scandal to Sept. 11 "singularly irresponsible, insulting, and anti-American."