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Pope: I Thought Priests Were 'Amusing' Children
VATICAN CITY (CAP) - In the latest development in the ongoing Catholic Church child abuse scandal, Pope Benedict XVI is blaming his failure to stop pedophile priests on a hearing problem that has plagued him for decades, or at least since the first abuse reports surfaced.
"For years, I thought my aides were telling me that people had come forward to say the priests were amusing children in their parishes," said Benedict in a prepared statement released by the Vatican. "With laughter being one of God's greatest gifts to mankind, you can understand why I didn't think this would be a problem."
Benedict claims he reassigned the accused priests, rather than remove them from a position where they would come into contact with children, because he was trying to "spread the laughter."
"That's just the type of Pontiff I am," wrote Benedict, noting his propensity for buying virtual drinks for all 1,000 of his Facebook friends. "I love to laugh."
"Now I understand why the Cardinals would give me such funny looks when I would react with such delight every time the topic of children being amused came up," added the Pope, noting it was similar to the times when he would tell them long, wistful stories about his time spent in the Hitler Youth, only to find out recently that it wasn't actually the Bavaria chapter of the Boys & Girls Club.
Some are skeptical about the Pope's claims, though, pointing out that many of the accusations came in lengthy written reports outlining the potential scope of the abuse claims. But Benedict says most of his memos and reports were read to him by an aide who had a speech impediment, which compounded his hearing problem.
"For years when we were discussing keeping abortion under control, I thought the topic was portion control," explained the Pope. "Which frankly I could stand to have a little more of, the way I love that apfelstrudel."
Pope Benedict's claim comes at a time when the church is desperately trying to restore its image in the wake of the hundreds of abuse claims that have dogged it in recent years. To improve his image, the Pope has gone so far as to skate for the N.Y. Rangers vs. the N.J. Devils, and distribute hundreds of get-out-of-confession-free cards.
"We're getting a little tired of the whole confession thing," admitted one Vatican official who asked not be named. "I can't tell you how many people come into the booth now and say 'Bless me father, for YOU have sinned.' It gets old real fast."
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi presented the Pope's statement at a press conference Saturday morning, prompting reporters to ask him if they honestly expected people to believe that the failure to effectively deal with hundreds of abuse claims over many decades could be attributed to the Pope being hard of hearing.
"Well, I'll say this about that," responded Father Lombardi, before shuffling his notes around a bit, pausing for a full two minutes, and then saying, "Um ... that's all we got."
Then he added, "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go become Episcopalian."
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