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Australian probe into child abuse attacks Catholic celibacy

In this photo provided by the Australian Government Royal Commission, Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan, seated left, watches as Governor-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove, seated right, signs a document after receiving the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse at Government House, in Canberra, Dec. 15, 2017. The commission delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations after a wide-ranging investigation. (Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission via AP) (Caption amended by RNS)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian inquiry into child abuse recommended Friday that the Catholic Church lift its demand of celibacy from clergy and that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of pedophilia heard in the confessional.


RELATED: Vatican Cardinal Pell faces Australian court on sex charges


Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. Australia’s longest-running royal commission — which is the country’s highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2012 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years.

The report heard the testimonies of more than 8,000 survivors of child sex abuse. Of those who were abused in religious institutions, 62 percent were Catholics.

“We have concluded that there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades,” the report said.

Recommendations include that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference request that the Vatican consider introducing voluntary celibacy for clergy.

It said the bishops’ body should also request clarity on whether information received in the confessional that a child has been sexually abused is covered by the seal of secrecy and whether absolution of a perpetrator should be withdrawn until the perpetrator confesses to police.

Catholic clerics who testified to the royal commission gave varying opinions about what if anything a priest could divulge about what was said in a confessional about child abuse.

The commission’s recommendations, which with interim reports total 409, include making failure to report child sexual abuse a criminal offense. Clerics would not be exempt from being charged.

The law should exclude any existing excuse or privilege relating to a religious confessional, it said.

The Vatican didn’t respond to the specific recommendations in a statement Friday, though Catholic officials have previously rejected any link between celibacy and abuse and have reaffirmed the sanctity of the confessional.

In the statement, the Vatican said the commission’s report was “thorough,” and deserved to be “studied seriously.” And it said it was committed to helping the Australian church accompany victims in finding healing and justice.

Pope Francis’s former finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, testified in a video link from the Vatican in 2016 about his time as a priest and bishop in Australia. Pell this year became the most senior Catholic official to face sex offense charges.

Through his lawyers, Pell has vowed to fight the charges of sexual assault.

The commission found that the church’s responses to complaints and concerns about clerics in Australia were “remarkably and disturbingly similar.”

The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, said many of the commission’s recommendations “would have significant impact on the way the Catholic Church and others operate in Australia.”

He said the Vatican is already giving “serious consideration” to questions raised by the commission about the extent of the seal of the confession and whether child molesters who did not confess to police could be absolved.

“I cannot break the seal. The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication; being passed out of the church,” Hart said. “I revere the law of the land and I trust it, but this is a sacred, spiritual charge before God which I must honor, and I have to try and do what I can do with both.”

He said the Australian bishops would put the celibacy recommendations to the Vatican, but added, “I believe that there are real values in celibacy.”

The commission found that celibacy was not a direct cause of child sexual abuse, but was a contributing factor, especially when combined with other risk factors.

“We conclude that there is an elevated risk of child sex abuse where compulsorily celibate male clergy or religious have privileged access to children in certain types of Catholic institutions, including schools, residential institutions and parishes,” the report said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Catholic, recommended all Australians read the report.

“What that commission has done is exposed a national tragedy. It’s an outstanding exercise in love and I thank the commissioners and those who had the courage to tell their stories,” Turnbull said.

Catholicism is the largest denomination in majority-Christian Australia.

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Rod McGuirk

44 Comments

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  • The catholic church substitutes blind obedience in lace ofmoral discernment Of course this leads to big problems.

  • I sincerely doubt that this has much to do with the celibacy requirements. I’m sure the vast majority of priests are not kiddy diddlers.

    It has everything to do with sexually confused and immature men seeking the priesthood as a way of evading their own sexual issues.

    It has everything to do with access to children.

    It has everything to do with a centuries old culture of secrecy and obfuscation that thinks the worst thing in the world is not kiddy diddling, but a stain on the Church’s reputation.

  • Careful studies indicate that cases of paedophilia occur with more frequency amongst same-sex couples than heterosexual couples. Although the homosexual community comprises a tiny minority of the population, this minority is responsible for one-third of all cases of child molestation in the US.[26] According to a Senior Fellow for cultural studies at the Family Research Council, Dr. Timothy J. Dailey, ‘the evidence indicates that both homosexuality and paedophilia are intersecting categories that include many different kinds of sexual behaviour’.[27]

    This is confirmed by a survey carried in the late 1980s by Archives of Sexual Behavior, which revealed that that 86% of the 229 criminals convicted of sexual molestation against children were homosexuals or bisexuals.[28] Further, an empirical research carried by Cameron and Cameron concluded that same-sex parents had committed 10% of all reported cases of child molestation, although they comprised only 0.3% of the random sample.[29] Such a number indicates a disproportional percentage of sexual abuse by homosexual parents, as compared to only 0.6% of children who had been molested by their heterosexual parents. It also indicates, as the researchers who carried this remarkable investigation concluded, ‘a disproportionate association between homosexuality and paedophilia [and] a correspondingly disproportionate risk of homosexual incest… for children reared by homosexuals’.[30] As a former Fellow in Child Psychiatry at Yale University, Dr Jeffrey Satinover, points out:

    [T]he greater number of heterosexual cases reflects the fact that heterosexual males outnumber homosexual males by approximately thirty-six to one… However, heterosexual child molestation cases outnumber homosexual cases by only eleven to one, implying that pedophilia is more than three times more common among homosexuals.[31]

    One of the leading academic journals of the homosexual community is called the Journal of Homosexuality. Published in 1990 there is a special double issue entitled Male Inter-Generational Intimacy. Edited by a notorious paedophile Edward Brongersma, the issue contains articles about sexual relationships between men and small boys. There instances of paedophilia are portrayed as ‘loving relationships’.[32] One of the essays even suggests that parents of sexually abused children should not regard their molesters ‘as a rival or competitor, not as theft of their property, but as a partner in the boy’s upbringing, someone to be welcomed into their home’.[33] Such essays tend to normalise paedophilia and regard the sexual molestation of children as a ‘right’ of the molested child and of the child molester. Similar, in a 1991 article by Helmut Graupner to the Journal of Homosexuality one finds the following statement: ‘Man/boy and woman/girl relations constitute, without a doubt, an aspect of gay and lesbian life’.[34]

    One of the largest homosexual publishers is the Alyson Publications. This publishing house is particularly notorious for its enthusiastic support of paedophilia. One of the most notorious books published by such publisher is entitled ‘Gay Sex: Manual for Men who Love Men’. The book provides child molesters with detailed instructions on how to avoid discovery and arrest when sexually abusing children. Among other things, the book recommends: ‘Avoid situations where a number of men are having sex with the same boy, or group of boys, over a period of time’.[35] In The Age Taboo, a book also published by Alyson Publications, its author contends: ‘Boy-lovers… are not child molesters. The child abusers are… parents who force their staid morality onto the young people in their custody’.[36]

    https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2017/08/childrens-welfare-sex-families/#_ftn27

  • Which relative Ben?
    The difficulties with the people harming the children, is they follow the god of this world, and not Christ. Immorality needs more immorality over time…..
    They need Jesus, and He will help them to not engage in this behaviour.

  • well they certainly, are not following the example of Christ. here in Revelation i believe they, are called the church of lucifer.

    there, are lots of other g-ds being worshiped that is not The One True G-D. and it is impossible, that all religions, sects, or cults worship the same g-ds resulting in hostility within and against each other.

    and it is highly improbable, there is such a thing as an only true church or religion. The Book of Revelation, throws that idea right out the window.

  • in violation of Scripture to be fruitful and multiply. and violating, The Scripture against homosexuality. a bishop, shall have no more than two wives. a High Priest (pope), shall have no more than one wife. a cardinal with more than one wife, is ineligible to be high priest.

  • Of course, compulsory clerical celibacy is a recipe for sexual abuse. if you prohibit priests from marrying, the proportion of priests who are not the marrying kind will increase. That is what has led to the far greater proportion of sexual abuse in Catholic institutions.

    Ending compulsory clerical celibacy won’t end all abuse. Other religious and secular bodies also had their problems with sexual abuse of children. However, I think it is abundantly clear that compulsory clerical celibacy compounds the problem. Hence the recommendation of the Royal Commission.

  • I’ve had a hard time seeing how celibacy contributes to this issue. It is, after all, possible to be celibate without having to be a pedophile; pedophilia and celibacy don’t march in lockstep. 

    What other relationship could there be? As I see it, there are a few avenues: 

    First, mandatory celibacy (almost by definition) tends to attract men whose sexual desires are different from the usual — because celibacy is not the usual human practice. It’ll attract asexual men, who don’t pose a risk to anyone, to be sure … but it will also attract others. Sometimes these men may believe that joining the priesthood will “tame” whatever is unusual about them … but obviously it doesn’t always work that way. 

    Second, it makes the Church into a worldwide “bachelor’s club” whose members have no loyalties except to the Church itself. They don’t have families of their own, and often aren’t even anchored to the communities they live in (since the Church can, and does, assign them to all sorts of places). The only constant in their lives — and the entity which provides them their living — is the Church. This leads them, often, to protect the Church at all costs … even when they know evil is being done by fellow churchmen. 

    Third, mandatory celibacy makes the priesthood unattractive to a lot of men. It limits — severely! — the pool of potential applicants. This has led to something of a vocation crisis in many places (e.g. the US and Europe). This, in turn, means the Church has little incentive to turn away those who may enter the priesthood with ill intent. Sure, they evaluate candidates for the priesthood, but how extensively can they vet these young men? There’s only so much they can do. 

    Fourth, the Church is well-known to protect its own. The malcontents mentioned above can enter the priesthood knowing they’ll be protected, no matter what they do. If anyone needs an example of how far the Church will go to protect aberrant priests, consider Fr Kevin Gray of my home state of Connecticut, who embezzled from a church he pastored. In spite of his conviction, he remains a priest eligible for a posting within the archdiocese of Hartford (as long as he doesn’t administer finances). 

    On top of all this, one must remember the reasons there’s a celibacy requirement in the first place. And it has nothing to do with spirituality. It was imposed during the Middle Ages as part of a response to problems within the Church at the time. More specifically, it was an effort by a cadre of “regular” clergy (i.e. monks, particularly of the Benedictine Order, and associated with Cluny Abbey) to make the Church, as a whole, work in the same way as their own Order, and to force the “secular” clergy (i.e. parish priests) to be more like monks. Celibacy effectively terminated the tendency of secular clerics to hand down their offices to their sons, and this in turn meant the Church’s hierarchs had more chances to put clerics of their choosing into those offices. 

    While mandatory celibacy definitely accomplished the goal of reforming the clergy and making secular priests more like monks — to the point where the aforementioned distinction between “regular” and “secular” clergy makes little sense to anyone today — there doesn’t seem to be that much of a need for it, any more. The Church no longer has to worry that parish priests will have sons who inherit their posts. It’s a relic of the past, and the Church really ought to reconsider it — for its own sake, if not for the sake of the children (or even adults) who may be subject to abuse by priests: It would make it much less dysfunctional as an institution. 

  • Re: “One of the largest homosexual publishers is the Alyson Publications. This publishing house is particularly notorious for its enthusiastic support of paedophilia.” 

    So … you’re saying one homosexual publisher somehow “proves” that all gays are pedophiles? Really!? Generalize much? 

  • “A second hypothesis is that LGB individuals were seduced or recruited — usually as children — by other LGBs. Where this refers to sexual molestation of a child by an adult, evidence indicates that the vast majority of sexual ahuse of children is committed by heterosexual males; most commonly, the victim is female (Finkelhor, 1986; Roysler & Poyer, 1994; Patterson, 1995b)” ~ Janis S. Bohan, Psychology and Sexual Orientation: Coming to Terms (Psychology Press, 1996), pp. 79-80.

    As a Christian, I find your willingness to tell hateful lies while claiming that you represent Christian values odious in the extreme, sandi. I invite you to stop doing so.

  • A huge amount of the comments below are around pedophilia and many are valid. However, the Roman Church’s governing system allowed pedophilia to explode and continue. The Australian government should require a system of open elected church officials and transparent church government with clerics and church administrators responsible directly to members.

  • are your studies completed by homosexuals, William? Odd enough, when homosexuals complete the studies, suddenly there is no problem….

  • Its not even a true assertion. This comes from the natterings of anti-gay hate groups making unfounded claims of others.

  • People who quote hate groups as a source don’t get to criticize sources to the contrary with a straight face.

  • Oh, I grant that the claim itself is untrue. I’m just pointing out that, even if it were, the conclusion reached s STILL invalid and based on a fallacy. 

  • Nobody needs what you call help. But you can help yourself in the same fashion. Which apparently would mean your suicide.

  • This isn’t the first time you posted that crap. Its not a study, its not from a news source or factual source. Its an op-ed by liars and bigots. Your kind of people.

  • lol…..you can hope Spud. Innocent people being drawn into this sin need to know exactly what they are getting themselves involved in. Homosexuality is not termed “immoral” for nothing.

  • “Homosexuality is not termed “immoral” for nothing.”

    It isn’t termed at all in the Bible. It is a word and term which post-dates it by quite a bit.

    For the only book you ever pay attention to, you are remarkably lax with your recall as to its contents.

    Righteous people do not slander and revile others as you do. Bless your heart. Pray that your dishonesty and malice does not earn you a one way ticket to hell.

  • The Bible terms it immoral and a perversion Spud.
    Christ then turned around and died for the people practicing such, if the should repent of their sin, turn to Him and follow Him.

  • Nope. The word is a late addition to the Bible. Didn’t exist until the 19th Century. Bless your heart. Pray that God shows you the wisdom you lack and the error of your ways before its too late. Continue on your road of slander, reviling and malice and you will never see heaven.

  • Oh…..so you are an expert on the Bible now too? Wow, Spud. Are you not diverse!
    Now, if you know the Bible so well, you should know that I’m telling the truth and what your reward will be for your stance on the issue. Galatians 1:8-11

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