If celibacy is the cause, why do non-celibates have the problem?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 14, 2017

In Australia, two former Catholic priests have released a report saying that the root causes of sexual abuse by Catholic priests are—the things the two ex-priests don’t like about the Catholic Church. Since what they don’t like about the Catholic Church matches what the secular media don’t like, their report will enjoy plenty of publicity, regardless of its scientific rigor (or lack of same).

Without reading the full report, however, one can make a few observations:

Anglican priests are not bound by a rule of celibacy. Nevertheless the rate of abuse by Anglican priests in Australia is the same as the rate among Catholic priests.

The mayors of 50 different American cities have been accused of sexual abuse of minors. Mayors are not bound by celibacy.

In the US, according to the John Jay report, the rate of sexual abuse by Catholic priests rose dramatically between 1950 and 1975. The teachings of the Church that are cited by the two Australian ex-priests as causes did not change during those years. The enforcement of those teachings definitely did change, as overall discipline was relaxed.

In other words, the aspects of life in the Catholic clergy that the Australian authors find objectionable became less prominent at the time that abuse became more prevalent. That fact by itself does not prove their study wrong, but it should make intelligent readers suspicious.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jeanneg117438 - Sep. 15, 2017 5:28 PM ET USA

    I live in a small rural community. Not a month goes by without some teacher, coach or youth leader being charged with sex abuse. Each time I remark, "What a shame teachers (coaches/scout leaders/whatever) aren't allowed to marry."

  • Posted by: garedawg - Sep. 14, 2017 4:30 PM ET USA

    I lived the life of a celibate man when I was between marriages. It wasn't my first choice of lifestyle, but I certainly didn't find myself looking at teenage boys during that time.

  • Posted by: feedback - Sep. 14, 2017 4:15 PM ET USA

    John Jay report on Catholic clerical abuse of minors tells about over 80% homosexual nature of it. Whoever has ears ought to hear.