The Catholic church has released another report into child abuse claims — but this one says something we’d never expect.
“We’ve got to ask the question about whether celibacy was an added and an unbearable strain for some.”
Trigger warning: This post deals with child sexual abuse and may be triggering for some readers.
There have been a lot of reasons to question the Catholic church’s approach to child sex abuse allegations lately — but today, a surprisingly progressive move by a church council is being welcomed by critics.
A landmark report released today by the Catholic church has linked the vow of celibacy taken by Catholic priests with child abuse — marking the first time the church has made this link, The Australian reports.
The Activity Report — by the Australian church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, which is coordinating the church’s response to the national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse — addresses key concerns that came to light after its engagement with people affected by the abuse of thousands of children by priests.
The SBS reports that under a section on culture and “clericalism” (the abuse of priests’ powers over others), the Activity Report examines how this might have played a part in contributing to abuse.
“Obligatory celibacy may also have contributed to abuse in some circumstances,” the report concedes.
It suggests that “ongoing training and development, including pyscho-sexual development, is necessary for priests and religious (figures in the church)”, The Australian reports.
The report also criticises a culture “geared to power over others”, and calls for “greater clarity around the role of the Vatican and its involvement with the way in which church authorities in Australia responded to abuse allegations.”
These admissions stand in stark contrast to a recent US study that declared celibacy could not be blamed for the epidemic of abuse.
Catholicism is unique in demanding its religious leaders take a vow of celibacy, which includes abandoning sex entirely — and CEO of the Council, Francis Sullivan, said questions must be asked around how the church ensures individuals who have chosen celibacy remain healthy without “acting out of a dysfunctional sense of self”.
“We’ve got to ask the question about whether celibacy was an added and an unbearable strain for some,” he told The Australian.