Clerical celibacy may have contributed to endemic levels of child abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, a new internal investigation has claimed.
Australia’s Truth Justice and Healing Council’s 40-page activity report, believed to be the first time a link has been drawn between celibacy and paedophilia, has prompted Church authorities to insist there are no considerations to remove present requirements of priestly chastity.
Francis Sullivan, the Council’s chief Executive, claimed: “There would be a long way to go before that conversation would be had and it would be beyond our brief anyway”.
The Council, established in January 2013 in response to a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, has a mandate to both represent and reform the Australian Catholic church – but does not necessarily represent the views of the entire clergy.
Indeed, a Vatican spokesperson was quick to dismiss the evidence presented.
“We certainly don’t take the issue lightly, but are these claims [by the Healing Council] based on a serious, long-term psychological study?” a senior Vatican source told the Daily Telegraph.
Instead the spokesperson suggested that abuse was far more likely to take place “within the family, and family members are by their nature not celibate — they could be fathers or uncles”.
The contentious single line comes halfway through the report, stating: “obligatory celibacy may also have contributed to abuse in some circumstances.”
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
1/12 The Pro-Gay Pope
In just a year, Pope Francis has managed to change the public perception of the Catholic Church, and the stance it takes on civil issues, like gay rights. Despite originally protesting the legalisation of gay marriage in his native Argentina some years ago, he told reporters this year: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
2/12 The Rebel Pope
No other Pope has urged a shake-up of the Catholic Church quite like Pope Francis, a true rebel of the dioceses. Who, incidentally, used to be a night club bouncer.
3/12 The Graffiti Pope
Pope Francis become... SUPER POPE in this Vatican-approved street art. But was he happy with the reference to the fictional DC comic character?"To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person," he said. So, that's a no, then.
4/12 The Biker Pope
Yes, the Pope used to own a Harley Davidson. And yes, he auctioned it off this year and donated the proceeds to a charity that feeds the hungry in Rome. Very Papal.
5/12 The ‘Blue’ Pope
Dropping the 'F' bomb during Sunday service? Classic Pope Francis. Sadly, down to a Spanish-speaking slip of the Italian language rather than pure bad-assery.
6/12 The ‘Because I’m Worth It’ Pope
That awkward moment when your Papal hat blows off, forcing your barnet into Sesame Street-like spikes. Pope Francis has been there.
7/12 The Chocolate Pope
Imagine the Pope's delight (horror?) when he was presented with a giant chocolate replica of himself outside the Vatican by by students on a chocolatier course at the Accademia of Maestri Cioccolatieri, near Venice.
8/12 The Rock Star pope
The one and only religious leader ever to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine? Introducing... Pope Francis.
9/12 The People’s Pope
His U-turn attitude towards sexuality won him Time magazine's coveted Person of the Year accolade, and the cover of gay rights magazine The Advocate.
10/12 The Merchandise Pope
Thongs, mugs, onesies, earrings and even a baby mobile adorned with decapitated Pope heads, the 'Francis Effect' has seen sales of Papal merchandise soar by 200% over the last year.
11/12 The Fashion Pope
The only Pope, as far as we're aware, to be compared to fashion royalty (Karl Lagerfeld. Yes way.) and win Esquire's Most Stylish Man of 2013 award, too.
12/12 The Modern Pope
Let it be said, Pope Francis knows a thing or two about social media. He might be a way off 'doing a Dalai' and opting for Instagram, but he's not above posing for the odd 'Selfie' on Twitter.
Queensland University of technology researcher Jodi Death, who has carried out extensive research into child abuse within the Catholic Church, told The Guardian that evidence suggested a higher incidence of abuse in the Catholic compared to other denominations that allow clergy to marry.
“The problem of celibacy in the Catholic church is it puts priests in an elite category,” she said. “They are set apart because of the celibacy that’s required of them and this gives them the authority to exercise power.”
Australia has faced its own share of the worldwide child abuse scandals gripping the Catholic Church, which is the country's largest single denomination, representing about a quarter of the population.
Victim advocacy organisation Broken Rites alleges that more than 100 Catholic priests have been charged for sexual offences against minors, while other organisations state the figures are nearer the thousand mark.
The wide-reaching scandal prompted the Australian government in 2012 to form a Royal Commission – in partnership with the church – to investigated child abuse within the church across Australia.Reuse content