A Catholic priest has sparked a new round of outrage after joking that a rape victim could have had a boyfriend, rather than being raped by her abuser.
The comments from a Vatican spokesman come as Pope Francis is seeking to curb the spread of the Zika virus, which is blamed for a rise in sexually transmitted infections in the Americas.
The pope, who made the comments at a news conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Tuesday, said the virus was a “moral and spiritual crisis”.
The comments came as the Vatican has issued guidelines to protect against sexual harassment, and Pope Francis’ order for bishops to be given more power to discipline priests.
Pope Francis, who is also the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was asked by reporters if the comments had been made by someone who was a priest.
He said: “I will not comment on priests’ private lives, but I can say that he is a great example of a good man, who has done great things for his people.”
It is a moral crisis because he had a good wife, a beautiful daughter, and a wonderful son.
“A woman can have a boyfriend and he can have another woman.
But this doesn’t mean that they are all equally responsible for this crime.”
A spokeswoman for the Vatican said the comments were made by a priest and were not an official position of the Holy See.
“This is a private matter, which cannot be discussed by the Vatican,” said spokeswoman Fr Michele Scaglia.
“However, it does seem like this is a new way of saying things that are not only inoffensive, but that may also be helpful for people in the area.”
We do not have any information on the extent of his victimisation.
“The remarks sparked an outcry from many Catholics, who said the pope had lost his moral compass and was not living up to the standards of a priest who had been charged with sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church, the world’s largest and oldest Christian denomination, has come under increasing pressure to act against sexual abuse by priests, and the Vatican announced plans to make sexual abuse allegations anonymous and confidential.
Francis, a Catholic, was the first pontiff to be accused of sexual abuse, but he was cleared by a Vatican tribunal in 2007 and has said he would never forgive anyone.
In recent months, the Vatican, which has faced accusations of mishandling the crisis, has released more details of its efforts to contain the spread.