Thursday, 11 March 2010

Abuse & Celibacy: Austrian Cardinal Opens the Can of Worms (UPDATED)

As the problems of sexual abuse within the Church continue to cascade across Europe, The Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna has called on the Church to investigate fully the causes of the problem, including the role of celibacy and methods of priestly training.  This is should be welcomed with enthusiasm:  observers and analysts outside the Church establishment have for years been producing convincing evidence that these are two of the crucial issues behind the creation of the enabling environment, evidence which most bishops have simply ignored.   In an odd sequel, though, Cardinal Schonborn later issued a "clarifying" statement that he was not calling into question the Vatican stance on compulsory celibacy.  In doing so, he brings into sharp focus the third of the factors widely believed to be behind that enabling environment:  excessive central control and abuse of power. For there is little point in "investigating" the causes if you rule out in advance certain conclusions that  might follow, or fail to act on the conclusions you might reach, but the Cardinal knows full well that an unfavourable conclusion on celibacy will be totally unacceptable to the Vatican - and so threatening to his own position.  It is not at all accidental that Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, through his extensive work with the Australian problems with abuse, reached the firm conclusion that celibacy was indeed central to the issue - but waited until his retirement before publishing those conclusions.
[caption id="attachment_5349" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Cardinal Shonborn - under his watchful eye."][/caption]
Still, every little step forward is welcome.  The institutional response is clearly "evolving", and will evolve a lot further before this is over.
(The first English language report I saw was from the Asian Strait Times, and the only early European based reports were in French.  British press has finally picked up on it - twelve hours after my first report!)
This one is from the Guardian

Archbishop links priestly celibacy and Catholic sex abuse scandals

The Archbishop of Vienna today said priestly celibacy could be one of the causes of the sex abuse scandals to hit the Catholic church.
In an article for Thema Kirche, his diocesan magazine, Christoph Schonborn became the most senior figure in the Catholic hierarchy to make the connection between the two and called for an "unflinching examination" of the possible reasons for paedophilia.
He wrote: "These include the issue of priest training, as well as the question of what happened in the so-called sexual revolution.
"It also includes the issue of priest celibacy and the issue of personality development. It requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the church and of society as a whole."
Schonborn is not the first person to suggest a link between celibacy and paedophilia – the theologian Hans Kung has made the same assertion.
Hans Kung is also not the first:  numerous others have made the same assertions over the years, as I have reported repeatedly here at QTC. Schonborn is, however, the most senior to do so (so senior, in fact, that the Times suggest he may be a a strong candidate in the next papal conclave):
A cardinal seen as a future candidate for the papacy has broken a Vatican taboo by raising the possibility that priestly celibacy is among the causes of the sex abuse scandal sweeping the Roman Catholic Church.
Also at the Times, columnist Ruth Gledhill concludes from her analysis that finally, celibacy is under real threat, and Richard Owen sees this as Pope Benedict's Defining Moment. Gledhill's analysis includes a number of important points. The Cardinal, in his capacity as ordinary of the Austrian Eastern rite church, already presides over married priests; last year in Rome he presented a petition from leading lay Catholics calling for a relaxation of the rule on celibacy, and also for women deacons; the influx of married Anglican priests will leave defenders hard pressed to justify the double standards in application of the rule; and finally, of great interest here,
The internet, the blogosphere, the entire realm of modern communications, has meant the era of cover-up is coming to an end.


Times Online Abuse Scandal may be Pope Benedict;s Defining Moment
Reuters:  Focus turns to pope
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