I can’t find the actual text of Vatican UN Observer Archbishop Silvano Tomasi on the internet, but if reports (see here and here) are to be believed, the statement is not one that could be considered “helpful” in the current climate. Of course, when backed into a corner (as appears to have happened by the specific and targeted attack from “international representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union” Keith Porteous Wood), it is perfectly understandable that the Vatican Observer should react defensively. Yet, surely he must know that pointing the finger at the crimes of others was not ever going to be an effective way in which to answer such an attack.
All that being said, the situation in which the Vatican finds itself is somewhat unique. What other body, whose operatives (we cannot say “employees”, since priests are not employees of the Vatican but of their local diocese) have been guilty of these crimes, has an international head office that could be held to account in the way some are trying to hold the Vatican to account? It is true, as the Archbishop points out, that the incident of child abuse is no higher among Catholic priests than among protestant, jewish, or in fact no-religion-at-all organisations, but the hierarchical set up of the Catholic Church does mean that the Vatican is an “easy target”.
Personally, I find the statistical comparison “no more than anyone else” more than a little distasteful. The Catholic Church should be one place where all people are ENTIRELY safe from such predatory abuse, and I am ashamed that it is not so. It makes the task of evangelisation and of the promotion of the Catholic Faith a hell of a lot harder than it should be.