The Australian Catholic Church has admitted that the vow of celibacy may be responsible for the extensive incidents of sexual abuse of children by priests and clergymen.
In its response to a Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse, the Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council released an “activity report” Friday that conceded that “obligatory celibacy may have contributed to abuse in some circumstances”, Xinhua reported.
The council subsequently recommended that “ongoing training and development, including psychosexual development, is necessary for priests and religious figures”.
The acknowledgment of the connection between celibacy and child abuse could have major international repercussions, with the Australian Catholic Church becoming the first Catholic body in the world to officially recognise the link.
It is also in direct contrast to a US response, released in May, which strongly denied that celibacy in any way caused decades worth of child sexual abuse.
But, as well as urging the Vatican to provide greater transparency into its role in responding to abuse claims, the council said investigating the influence of celibacy was necessary.
“We’ve got to ask questions about whether celibacy was an added and an unbearable strain for some,” the Council’s chief executive officer, Francis Sullivan, said Friday.
“It doesn’t mean that celibacy needs to be eradicated, let’s not turn the Church on its head but we are saying you can’t have an honest and open discussion about the future without having an open and honest discussion about celibacy.
“We are placing celibacy on the table.”
The council is examining in excess of 160,000 church documents that are understood to reveal that child abuse occurred in more than 700 Catholic churches across the country.
The report is also critical of the means in which the Church helped priests and clergymen deal with celibacy.
“When we have a public inquiry into sex crimes in the Catholic Church, you need to address how sexuality is understood and acted out by members of the clergy,” Sullivan continued.(IANS)