VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Catholic Church DID NOT say pedophilia is ‘religious freedom’ for priests

An old story revived recently by which claims that the Catholic Church had said pedophilia is “religious freedom” for priests is fake news.

The story, first published last Aug. 2, bore the headline, “Catholic Church: Raping Children is ‘Religious Freedom’ for Pedophile Priests,” and claimed a Cardinal Timothy Dolan from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in the United States of America made the statement.

The story’s headline falsely attributes the statement to the “Catholic Church” when its content merely sourced it from one American clergyman.

Neither the Catholic Church nor Dolan, who was among those accused in 2013 of shielding pedophile priests in Milwaukee, has been reported by mainstream media as making such a statement.

Previous reports alleged that Dolan, now Archbishop of New York, merely transferred priests accused of sexual misconduct to other dioceses, while protecting more than $50 million in Milwaukee church funds from being used in lawsuits filed by victims.

The fake report also misleads with photos of two popes holding and kissing children, namely, a February 2014 Getty Images photo of Pope Francis blessing a crying child in Vatican City and a December 2009 photo of Pope Benedict XVI kissing a young bagpipe player, also at the Vatican.’s fake news, which could have reached over 154,000 people, was revived this October, amid reports of clergy sexual abuse of children across various states in the US. Yesterday, Oct. 23, at least two Filipino priests in the San Francisco Bay area were reported to be among those accused of sexual misconduct.

The fake report’s top traffic generator from social media is the page Bible Study. was created in May 2012, and publishes similar stories with provocative headlines.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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