The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Vatican: DON’T blame it on celibacy

posted by jmcgee

Rome is using this day of rest to stir a debate that never seems to rest:

The Vatican on Sunday denied that its celibacy requirement for priests was the root cause of the clerical sex abuse scandal convulsing the church in Europe and again defended the pope’s handling of the crisis.

Suggestions that the celibacy rule was in part responsible for the ”deviant behavior” of sexually abusive priests have swirled in recent days, with opinion pieces in German newspapers blaming it for fueling abuse and even Italian commentators questioning the rule.

Much of the furor was spurred by comments from one of the pope’s closest advisers, Vienna archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who called this week for an honest examination of issues like celibacy and priestly education to root out the origins of sex abuse.

”Part of it is the question of celibacy, as well as the subject of character development. And part of it is a large portion of honesty, in the church but also in society,” he wrote in the online edition of his diocesan newsletter.

His office quickly stressed that Schoenborn wasn’t calling into question priestly celibacy, which Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed as recently as Friday as an ”expression of the gift of oneself to God and others.”

But Schoenborn has in the past shown himself receptive to arguments that a celibate priesthood is increasingly problematic for the church, primarily because it limits the number of men who seek ordination.

Last June, Schoenborn personally presented the Vatican with a lay initiative signed by prominent Austrian Catholics calling for the celibacy rule to be abolished and for married men to be allowed to become priests.

In the days following Schoenborn’s editorial this week, several prominent prelates in Germany and at the Vatican shot down any suggestion that the celibacy rule had anything to do with the scandal, a point echoed Sunday by the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

”It’s been established that there’s no link,” said the article by Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi, an emeritus professor of canon law and psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

”First off, it’s known that sexual abuse of minors is more widespread among lay people and those who are married than in the celibate priesthood,” he wrote. ”Secondly, research has shown that priests guilty of abuse had long before stopped observing celibacy.”

Continue at the link.



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Peter Brown

posted March 14, 2010 at 4:52 pm


If celibacy were the root cause of clerical sex abuse, there would be no analogous problems plaguing the public school system or other denominations. But the rates in those situations–where celibacy is clearly not a factor–appear to be comparable to or higher than those in the Catholic Church.
Clerical sexual abuse is sinful and criminal, yes. But caused by priestly celibacy, no. Indeed, a case could be made that the cultural attitude towards sex that fails to understand celibacy is more to blame for sexual abuse than is celibacy itself.
Peace,
–Peter



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pagansister

posted March 14, 2010 at 4:57 pm


As much as I would like to see the church stop the requirement for priests to be celibate, I agree it had nothing to do with the priests molesting children.



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Chris Sullivan

posted March 14, 2010 at 5:44 pm


I think that compulsory celibacy was a contributing factor, because in generations past it made a career in the clergy an attractive option for men with sexual problems.
I think that the abuse of power is a much more serious worry in the sex abuse coverups.
In Munich, Josef Ratzinger was bishop when a priest who had forced an 11 year old boy to perform a sex act on him (that would be rape), was transferred to another parish and released after therapy to continue pastoral work where he again abused children.
I want to know why Bishop Ratzinger did not report this case of child rape to the German police ?
And I want to know why the Vatican still does not have a policy requiring dioceses to report such cases to the police ?
God Bless



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hlvanburen

posted March 14, 2010 at 5:49 pm


Chris Sullivan asks two very good questions:
“I want to know why Bishop Ratzinger did not report this case of child rape to the German police ?
And I want to know why the Vatican still does not have a policy requiring dioceses to report such cases to the police ?”
So many of the apologists for the Church like to bring up the issue of abuse in the public schools. I can only imagine the anger they would put forward at an instance where a superintendent of a school did not report a case of child sexual abuse to the authorities but instead decided to handle it internally.
Of course, in many states, teachers and school administrators are mandatory reporters when it comes to the issue of child abuse, with heavy penalties in place if they fail to report these instances to authorities.
Why is it that ministers and churches are generally exempt from this?



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Visitor

posted March 14, 2010 at 6:44 pm


Right now I find myself a disappointed Catholic. There seems to be one set of rules regarding sexual abuse of children created by society and a totally different set of rules set forth by the Church. No more hiding behind Canon Law or the Pope. Priests should be treated like every other person in whatever society or country they are located. No exceptions and no excuses. I wouldn’t be disappointed if Pope Benedict resigned. We need a younger pope who is more in touch with reality. By the way I am an older woman who is a great grandmother. I grew up in the church during pre-Vatican II times, however, I feel that morally the Church is still in the dark ages. I imagine Jesus is very disappointed in how the Church has handled these problems. By the way, in my opinion, the Church wouldn’t come crumbling down if it allowed priests to be married. We have a married priest in our archdiocese and he and his family are a true blessing. Thanks for providing this forum.



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted March 14, 2010 at 7:04 pm


Teachers are NOW mandatory reporters. But at the time of most Church abuse cases school systems, police forces, etc. had policies for handling abuse cases very similar to the Church’s. A number of years ago the NY Times even admitted it on its front page. It even said the schools had a name for handling abusive teachers. It was called: “Moving the trash along.” But was there any follow-up in the Times?? None that I ever saw.
And I was teaching at that time in another school system in another state–and the situation was the same there. So it was a national problem. But any digging by courts or media to uncover the school officials responsible at the time? NOOOO!



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Chris Sullivan

posted March 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm


Deacon John M. Bresnahan,
I would have thought that the Church ought to hold herself to the higher standard of the gospel rather than merely be satisfied with following the rather low standard of the secular world ?
According to Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna in an official Vatican statement, there is still no official Vatican policy requiring reporting of sex abuse cases to the police.
http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/vaticans-da-sex-abuse-false-and-slanderous-charge-against-pope
Such a policy is not good enough.
God Bless



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kenneth

posted March 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm


This is like all of the church’s “examinations” of its own practices and doctrines. They start off with a preconceived answer, design the “study” to produce that answer, and there you have it. Is celibacy the root cause of abuse? No. A culture of secrecy and power and unaccountability is the primary root. But celibacy draws a disproportionate share of emotionally and sexually stunted men, men who are still arrested at adolescence in many ways themselves, and so are drawn to younger people in inappropriate ways.
The church’s habit of whitewashing itself blinds it to the primary causes of abuse as well. At its highest levels of leadership, the church still doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong at all with its culture or the handling of the issue. As far as they’re concerned, it’s all a problem of homosexuality and the secular media making trouble. Demographically speaking, the church’s house is burning down around it and it still ignores the root issue. Countries like Ireland which were its bastion of strength are now alienated, virtually as hostile as Reformation England. By its actions, the church seems to be saying “to hell with them, we’ll focus on our strength in the Third World.” And it will work for a time, but brown people don’t like child abuse anymore than Europeans, and they will not stand for it forever.



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hlvanburen

posted March 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm


Deacon John M. Bresnahan: “Teachers are NOW mandatory reporters.”
Yes they are, Deacon. That is a reaction to sexual abuse crisis within the public school system. It is an appropriate and reasonable response to the problem.
Now, can you please give me any credible reason why members of the clergy and other staff members, paid and volunteer, of any religious organization should not also be mandated reporters under the law?



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Doug Sirman

posted March 15, 2010 at 6:08 am


The cause of sexual abuse is sexual abusers. They are under no irresistible compulsions, they simply value their own gratification more than the welfare of others.
The cause of the sexual abuse SCANDAL, is the fact that priests, including JPII, viewed the reputation of the priesthood as being far more important than human-beings. It is ONLY when abuse affects the public reputation of the priesthood that you saw anyone giving a damn.



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Goodguyex

posted March 15, 2010 at 9:07 am


All this bloviating gets old and will not change anything. Sexual abuse is here to stay in all parts of society. We paint all this with too much of a broad brush. All cases can not be prosecuted and probably should not be prosecuted.
In decades past it simply was not reported almost anywhere. My father, a public school principal told me this issue was always discreet and somewhat secretive in past decades. It took time to move people and few were prosecuted. In the boy scouts there was a similar posture toward scoutmasters.
If there are to be changes, so be it. But it has to be for all, not just for some groups and not others. Public institutions can not maintain there sovereign immunity and private and church groups can not hid behind the 1st amendment.
People who have a strong sex attraction for underage sex, below about 16 years (straight or homosexual) should be identified early and such people should be advised not go into jobs and services that require contact with people under 16 years old and there should be efforts to prevent such associations. I am not advocating some Stalinists approach here but if we are going to be fixated on this problem we need to take as rational approach as possible.



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Goodguyex

posted March 15, 2010 at 9:11 am


Visitor writes ” By the way I am an older woman who is a great grandmother. I grew up in the church during pre-Vatican II times, however, I feel that morally the Church is still in the dark ages.”
I would hope the morality of the Church can stay in the New Testiment, difficult as that may be.



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Klaire

posted March 15, 2010 at 9:54 am


I would argue that celibacy (true holy celibacy), PREVENTS sexual abuse. I know for many it’s hard to understand, but holy celibacy is its own vocation. With it comes an extraordinary grace and “heavenly” union with God. The last thing a truly holy celibate is thinking about (or craving) is physical sex with anyone.
A good example is St. Joseph and our Dear Virgin Mother Mary. They had a “celibate” relationship within marriage. Properly understood, (made easier by JP II’s Theology of the Body), while many may think that Josephs “suffered” from lack of sexual relations, the truth is, holy celibacy, be a married couple or a holy priest and Christ, goes to the next level UP, above the physical. St. Philip Neri was often known for ecstasy during mass, as were other saintly priests.
The sad truth is, most of the church abuse problems were a problem of homosexuality and a cover up of homosexual exposure. So I say, let’s put it all out there, and see how our “politically correct, anti-Catholic” culture can handle THOSE facts. What irony in a culture that celebrates the gay and transsexual lifestyle.
Furthermore, as others have noted, the LEAST amount of sexual abuse comes from the Catholic Church (some like less than 2 percent with teachers being over 20%). The facts are simply overwhelming from various sources and undeniable. Deacon John is correct about teachers. A few years ago Denver tried to pass some law that would protect teachers but not the church. I don’t remember all of the details, but Bill Donahue of the Catholic League followed it well so it will be archived at the Catholic League Website. The bottom line was something like teachers who molested kids could only go back 1 or 2 years, but for Catholic priests, they could go back 20 plus year. I may be a bit off on the actual years, but it was something similar and outrageous. Not to mention, when teachers molest, it make for great late night comedy.
As for married priests, the Catholic Church has plenty of them, and will have more with the Anglicans. In our culture, I could go into great detail why having all priests married would be a terrible idea, but will leave it for now, only reiterating that holy consecrated celibacy is not only its own vocation, but as close to ‘heaven on earth’ that is possible.



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Your Name

posted March 15, 2010 at 9:59 am


Right on, Doug! The statement by Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi “it’s been established that there is no link…” is baloney! Celebacy may very well be the reason some priests have committed this sin, but it may not be the reason for all, straight across the board. We all have choices to make. If one feels he cannot adhere to the celebacy rule, he is free to leave his vocation. Many sexual abusers are not priests and are free to marry–what’s their excuse? There are far greater and deeper issues involved for one who decides to abuse others rather than admit he cannot follow through with his original decision to remain a celebate Catholic Priest and move on. I think the celebacy rule is archaic and hopefully someone will wake up before it’s too late.



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romancrusader

posted March 15, 2010 at 11:53 am


I hate to break it you, your name, but Pope John Paul II said that the issue of celibacy is closed. Period.



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Deacon Norb

posted March 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm


For what it is worth, in one diocese in the Midwest, the only permanently ordained deacon that diocese ever had who was a single “never-widowered” layperson at the time of his ordination became also the only permanent deacon in that diocese to be placed on that diocese’s “Dallas Declaration” list. Interesting isn’t it?



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Klaire

posted March 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm


Deacon Norb does that mean “declaration” as in for sainthood? (Please forgive my ignorance, I honeslty don’t know).
If that was/is the case, it wouldn’t suprise me at all, as there is nothing holier on planet earth than holy conscecrated celibacy,of which most of this world (outside faithful Catholics), are sadly clueless.
For those who are called to it, it’s a beautiful thing!



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted March 15, 2010 at 1:22 pm


Klaire …
Um, the “Dallas Declaration” is something quite different.
It’s related to the Dallas Charter, I believe.
Unless I’m misreading this, he’s a man who was named in a credible sex abuse charge.
(Please correct me if I’m wrong, Norb…)
Dcn. G.



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Klaire

posted March 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm


Wow, thanks for the feedback and clarity!
Regardless, HOLY celibacy is still a great gift for those who are called AND can live it.
K



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Deacon Norb

posted March 15, 2010 at 4:15 pm


Klaire
Dcn Greg is correct in his understanding of the situation I described.



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Frank

posted March 16, 2010 at 2:01 am


Klaire,
Thanks for reminding us that The priesthood will never go broke (or be horny) overestimating the gullibility of the Laity. For decades Catholic schools were sexually segregated in post-adolescent populations. Hence, priests didn’t come into contact with girls to molest as part of their jobs. If these priests did any molestation off the clock, the Church couldn’t be held financially accountable.
If you think your son would like a frenetic, brutish first sexual experience with a respected authority figure then you’re headed on the right path.
If you think your son might want a relationship with someone he genuinely loves, then you might want to reconsider.



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romancrusader

posted March 16, 2010 at 9:03 am


Frank,
I’m not sure that I understand your leap of logic here.



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