Oct 14, 2007
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican said Saturday it has suspended a monsignor from a senior post at the Holy See after an Italian TV program using a hidden camera recorded him making advances to a young man and asserting that gay sex was not sinful.
The Vatican did not identify the monsignor by name.
But Monsignor Tommaso Stenico confirmed in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he had been suspended from his post at the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, an office which aims to ensure proper conduct by priests.
"Don't condemn me," Stenico said, adding that the program "was done fraudulently" because it used a hidden camera.
In the program on private Italian network La7, a man identified as a priest is heard saying that he "didn't feel he was sinning" by having sex with gay men.
Rome daily La Repubblica reported Saturday that Vatican officials recognized the monsignor's office in the background of the program, which aired October 1.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said the Italian monsignor was suspended while the case was under investigation.
"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.
Vatican officials "had to intervene decisively and with the severity required by conduct not compatible with priestly service and with the mission of the Holy See," he added.
While the Vatican rarely comments on individual sex scandals, this case directly touched the Holy See, apparently prompting the confirmation of the report.
Vatican teaching holds that homosexual activity is a sin.
Stenico said to call back later in the day when he would have more to say, but later attempts to reach him were not successful.
The Italian news agency ANSA quoted him as saying he had sent his superiors "a dutiful memo" about the case.
Milan daily Corriere della Sera had previously reported that a young man had contacted La7 and said he had been in contact with several priests on chat lines popular with gay men. Corriere said La7 then filmed encounters between the man and priests with a hidden camera.
A woman identifying herself as a producer for La7's "Exit" program declined to comment about the case, saying only that the program could be viewed on the network's Web site.
In the program, the faces of those speaking with the young man are obscured and their voices altered so they would not be recognized.
The man La Repubblica identified as the Vatican official can be heard saying that "he didn't feel he was sinning" by having sex with gay men and asking his visitor if he liked him.