Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Vatican suspends senior monsignor in gay sex scandal

AP , VATICAN CITY

The Vatican said it has suspended a monsignor from a senior post at the Holy See after an Italian TV program, with a hidden camera, recorded him making advances to a young man, while the monsignor said he was pretending to be homosexual.

The monsignor, who told the young man on camera that it was not a sin to be gay, said in an interview published yesterday that he is not gay and was only pretending as part of his work.

In an interview with La Repubblica newspaper, Monsignor Tommaso Stenico said he frequented online gay chat rooms and met with gay men as part of his work as a psychoanalyst.

Stenico said that he had pretended to be homosexual in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the church with homosexual activity."

Vatican teaching holds that homosexual activity is a sin.

"It's all false; it was a trap. I was a victim of my own attempts to contribute to cleaning up the Church with my psychoanalyst work," La Repubblica quoted Stenico as saying.

Vatican spokesman the Reverend Federico Lombardi said on Saturday that the monsignor had been suspended pending a Vatican investigation.

Stenico is a top official in the Vatican's Congregation of the Clergy.

The Holy see acted after Vatican officials recognized Stenico's office in the background of a television program on gay priests that was broadcast on Oct. 1 on La7, a private Italian TV network.

While the Vatican rarely comments on individual sex scandals, this case directly touched the Holy See, apparently prompting its public confirmation of the report to media.

I can't deny the fact," Lombardi told journalists on Saturday.

"Higher-ups are evaluating the situation with the necessary reserve and with the obligatory respect for the person involved, even if this person has erred," Lombardi said.

In the Repubblica interview, Stenico said he had met with the young man and pretended to talk about homosexuality "to better understand this mysterious and faraway world which, by the fault of a few people -- among them some priests -- is doing so much harm to the church."

Stenico said he had never been gay and was heterosexual, but remained faithful to his vow of celibacy.

Italy's Sky TG24 said that Stenico had written a letter to his superiors, explaining his reason for approaching the young man about homosexuality.

Calls placed to Stenico's home and Vatican office went unanswered yesterday.

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