Question 219:

Why does the Vatican retain the rule of celibacy despite the recent awareness of sexual abuse?



„The sexual abuse of minors through Catholic priests is a particularly appalling crime. Because a priest acts as father to the victims, so that the crime includes an aspect of incest. The basic trust in the dependability of human relationships can be lost in this way and the Church, in particular, must not be indifferent to this because it also destroys or severely damages trust in God (Manfred Lütz, „Die Kirche und die Kinder (The Church and the children. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 11. 2.2010, p. 31).

In the context of desirable, serious and informed, discussions about the subject it is often stated that there is a causal link between celibacy of the clergy [to which an ordinand vows to be committed before his ordination] and the sexual abuse of children and young people. Experts from many disciplines have contradicted those assumptions. And yet, the question of a possible link between celibacy and abuse poses some questions: First of all, the Church, including its priests and other professionals, cares for a very large number of children and young people on a daily basis, more than most other institutions in our society with the exception of all kind of schools. This doubtlessly increases opportunities of contact and conflict. I hope that the current inevitable discussion will not signal the end to the unselfconscious dealing with children and young people many women and men in the numerous organisations linked with the Church display with integrity. On the other hand, the Church has to consider to which extent the lifestyle of a priest attracts men with paedophile tendencies, in particular with a view to active involvement in Church-related organisations. These organisations not only offer the opportunity to meet many children in a safe space, but also the reasonable hope to remain undiscovered because of the prevailing pastoral discretion and social taboos. Those responsible for our training institutions are already aware of the danger. But even vigilance, interviews with experts and the availability of necessary information cannot always exclude a wrong assessment in individual cases. It is clear that more care and clear decisiveness is required in this area (Karl Kardinal Lehmann; “Kirche der Sünder, Kirche der Heiligen” (Church and Sinners, Church of the Saints). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 1. April 2010, p. 6).

We shall add the firm opinion of the previously-quoted well known psychiatrist and theologian Dr Manfred Lütz from Cologne: Whatever one may think of Roman Catholic sexual morals, in times of downplaying paedophilia they have also been a bastion against sexual abuse for those who obeyed the rules. To mention celibacy in connection with this is particularly irresponsible. At a conference in Rome in 2003 the leading international experts (not all of them catholic) affirmed that there is no connection between this phenomenon and celibacy (Manfred Lütz, a. a. O.)

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