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European prelates speak on abuse, priestly celibacy: a connection?

March 11, 2010

Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has said that the broadening sex-abuse scandal indicates a need to re-think the training that priests receive. The Austrian prelate called for a thorough and "unflinching" discussion of the possible causes for sexual abuse by Catholic priests. No topics should be taboo during that discussion, the cardinal said; he called for a frank evaluation of how priests have handled the consequences of the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s, and analysis of how priests are trained for a life of celibacy.

Several English newspapers reported that Cardinal Schönborn had said that priestly celibacy is the root cause of the sex-abuse problem. He did not. Nor did he call for an end to clerical celibacy. As spokesman for the Vienna archdiocese, responding to these interpretations of the cardinal's statement, issued a clarification that Cardinal Schönbron "did not call into question celibacy in any way." His focus was on how young men are prepared to live with that discipline.

In Rome the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, confirmed that Church leaders are not planning any change in the rule of priestly celibacy, which he described as "a gift from the Holy Spirit."

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiga, asked whether he saw a connection between celibacy and abuse, replied: 'I don't understand how there can be a link." Archbishop Gerhard Mueller of Regensberg, Germany, was even more dismissive, saying that any claim to see a connection was "nonsense."


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  • Posted by: - Mar. 14, 2010 6:45 PM ET USA

    It has been years since I did my "homework" about celibacy in men. However, my research indicated that there are many potential benefits from voluntary celibacy. Physical and psychological research show that celibacy greatly increases a man's ability to concentrate on his goals, and to achieve exceptional self-control. I believe a truly celibate priest would be the least likely to commit sins of the flesh, and certainly not likely to be a pedofile.

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Mar. 12, 2010 10:00 AM ET USA

    I think the cardinal is right on target. It's important that priestly formation include a right understanding of the gift of celibacy. If they do not understand it correctly, the formation should be placed on hold.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 11, 2010 6:57 PM ET USA

    For the most part, the issue of priestly formation has been addressed by the Church. It is extremely rare to find a recently ordained priest who has sexually abused a minor. In fact, the most notorious pedophiles/ebophiles of the current scandal received part, if not all, of their formation in pre-Vatican II seminaries. Modern seminary formation is not the problem.

  • Posted by: adamah - Mar. 11, 2010 4:07 PM ET USA

    The part that needs to be looked into is the ordination of individuals who are known to have disordered sexual tendencies and the sad fact that so many seminaries embrace them.