Priest Accused of Molesting Girl, 11, Says Devil Made Him Do It: 'I Thought She Was at Least 15'

In this file photo, priests attend a mass at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican on October 18, 2015. The Catholic Church has been battling child abuse scandals for many years. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

A Catholic priest in Italy accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl has blamed his actions on the influence of the devil.

Paolo Glaentzer, 70, was arrested last month on suspicion of molesting the girl in a car in Calenzano, just outside the city of Florence. He is currently being held under house arrest while the investigation continues.

Despite the allegations, the priest has maintained that the incident was not his fault. In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere Fiorentino, Glaentzer claimed that the devil was tricking him into the sexual acts and that the girl in question seemed much older than she was.

Though he said he was "very sorry" about what happened, Glaentzer claimed "the devil tripped me" into abusing the girl. The priest argued that the encounter was "an exchange of affection" that got out of control.

The priest blamed the victim as well as Lucifer, suggesting the girl appeared "much more mature than she was." He added, "I found out she was 11 years old...I thought she was at least 15." Even if the girl was indeed 15, the priest still would have been breaking the law. The age of consent in Italy is 14, but 16 when one partner is in a position of authority, such as a priest or teacher.

The priest said he had engaged in no other relationships with young girls, though he had worked with many young people for years in his role as a priest. He claimed he did not ask the girl to do anything untoward, and suggested she may have been more forthcoming because of a difficult home life. He admitted at least three similar encounters with the girl before he was caught with her in a car by neighbors.

The accused cleric seemed nonplused by the ongoing investigation. He told the interviewer that he had "entrusted myself to Jesus and Mary." Nonetheless, he added, "I made a mistake, I admit it," suggesting god will be the one to judge him.

The Catholic Church has long struggled to root out and address pedophilia within the ranks of the priesthood. Numerous high-profile church officials have been forced to resign and some have faced charges, whether over direct abuse or allegations that they hid crimes committed by others.

The scandal reaches the very top of the Vatican hierarchy. Nearly 550 children in a choir led by the brother of former Pope Pope Benedict XVI were sexually abused, 47 of whom were raped. It has been alleged that Benedict—born Joseph Ratzinger—was instrumental in covering up sexual abuse by priests before he became pope.