Is the Celibacy in the Catholic Church Close to the End?

Priest Celibacy

The Australian Royal Commission’s five year public inquiry into child sex abuse cases found that the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne have ignored, dismissed or covered up allegations of appalling child abuse by seven of its priests in order to protect the church’s reputation. Now the Commission issued its final report which, among more than 400 recommendations, is calling on the Church to review its position on celibacy.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was contacted by more than 15,000 people. More than 8,000 victims told their stories, many for the first time in private sessions. Religious ministers and school teachers were the most commonly reported perpetrators, the report said. The greatest number of perpetrators after all was in Catholic institutions.

The commission had previously recommended that Catholic clerics should face criminal charges if they fail to report sexual abuse disclosed to them during confession. The final report on Friday urged Australian Catholic bishops to petition the Vatican to amend canon law to allow priests to report such disclosures, BBC reports.

The report also recommended that Church should consider making celibacy voluntary for priests because it had "contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse, especially when combined with other risk factors". According to the Commission, celibacy is not a direct cause of child sexual abuse, but it is certainly one of risk factors.

Among its other major findings, the inquiry recommended:

  • A nationally implemented strategy to prevent child sex abuse
  • A system of preventative training for children in schools and early childhood centers
  • A national office for child safety, overseen by a government minister
  • Making it mandatory for more occupations, such as religious ministers, early childhood workers and registered psychologists, to report abuse.

Archbishop Denis Hart, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, rejected the recommendation that religious officials should face criminal charges if they fail to report sexual abuse disclosed to them during confession. He said: “The seal of the confessional, or the relationship with God that’s carried through the priest and with the person, is inviolable.” About voluntary celibacy, he said it was up to the Vatican to decide. “It’s a discipline which the church can change,” he told Fairfax Media.

On the other hand, Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Antony Fisher told reporters that child sexual abuse was “an issue for everyone, celibate or not”, saying the problem also occurred in families and institutions with non-celibate clergy.

The Royal Commission's recommendations will surely provoke strong reactions among clergy especially because they are about changing the long-standing Catholic tradition. But everything that will reduce and prevent child abuse should and must be done as soon as possible.

Photo Credits: YouTube

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