Celibacy could lead to sex abuse, Catholic leader suggests
The Vatican is facing growing calls to tackle the previously taboo subject of clerical celibacy as a way of preventing future sex abuse scandals involving priests.
Nick Squires in Rome
Published: 5:27PM GMT 11 Mar 2010
The head of the Catholic Church in Austria said the possible reasons behind sex abuse crises which have hit Austria, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands in recent weeks should be subjected to “unflinching examination”.
A number of theologians and lay Catholic organisations have called for celibacy to be abolished on the grounds that it allows no outlet for priests’ sexual urges, but it is rare for a senior figure within the Church to call for the issue to be debated.
In an article for an in-house Church magazine, Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, called for a debate on celibacy, as the Vatican struggles to address a growing sex abuse crisis.
He said it was time to examine “the issue of priest celibacy and the issue of personality development. It requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the Church and of society as a whole.” His office later put out a “clarification” – reportedly under pressure from the Holy See – saying that the archbishop was “in no way seeking to question the Catholic Church’s celibacy rule.”
A Vatican expert, Bruno Bartoloni, said that Cardinal Schönborn was warning that “paedophilia can reflect the frustration of those priests who are not at ease with being celibate.”
The Vatican’s official newspaper, Osservatore Romano, added fuel to the debate with a front-page article suggesting that the “masculine conspiracy of silence” could be overcome if nuns and laywomen played a more prominent role in the Church.
But the Vatican insisted that the principle of celibacy was not open to negotiation.
“Priestly celibacy is a gift of the Holy Spirit which must be understood and experienced with a fullness of feeling and joy, in a total relationship with the Lord,” said Claudio Hummes, a Brazilian cardinal who heads the Vatican’s department concerned with the priesthood.
Source: Daily Telegraph
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