Mandatory celibacy may have contributed to priests abusing children, according to a newly released report.
In the landmark report, an Australian Catholic Church body dealing with the legacy of child sex abuse said that some church institutions and their leaders have been turning a blind eye to pedophilia for years.
Testimonies from around 8,000 victims were heard by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, which compiled the report released on Friday.
The report calls for end to compulsory celibacy and the secrecy of the confessional and recommended that clergy should be given “psychosexual” training.
RT reports: Australian religious institutions are among those that “failed to protect children,” the report says, devoting an entire volume to Catholic Church.
“…Many children have been sexually abused in religious institutions in Australia. Based on the information before us, the greatest number of alleged perpetrators and abused children were in Catholic institutions,” the report said.
Celibacy may be “not a direct cause” but “a contributing factor” to sex abuse against children. “… Based on research we conclude that there is an elevated risk of child sexual abuse where compulsorily celibate male clergy… have privileged access to children in certain types of Catholic institutions, including schools, residential institutions and parishes,” the statement said.
The commission recommends that celibacy for members of religious institutions should be voluntary, calling on the Holy See to consider the issue. It reported that, for many priests, celibacy is implicated in emotional isolation, depression and even mental illnesses; and this can lead to “psychosexual dysfunction,” which in its turn causes risks for children. “For many clergy and religious, celibacy is an unattainable ideal that leads to clergy and religious living double lives, and contributes to a culture of secrecy and hypocrisy,” the report said.
The secrecy of confession should also be ended, the report stated, adding that the commission members heard that “disclosures of child sexual abuse by perpetrators or victims during confession were not reported to civil authorities.”
The commission received reports relating to some 4,000 individual institutions where sex abuse took place. While some of them terminated their activities, others continue to operate, the commission said.
“Many [Australian] institutions failed to protect children because their policies and procedures did not exist, were inadequate or were not implemented effectively,” the report said. According to the findings, many of those failings were “exacerbated by a manifestly inadequate response” to the abused person.
The failure is attributed not only to those institutions which provide services for children, but also to those which are linked to children indirectly. Police sometimes don’t take children seriously and “refuse to investigate their complaints,” the report states, adding that many children who “had attempted to escape were returned to unsafe institutions by police.”
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse was established in 2012 to investigate instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia. The commission’s report from February this year found that more than 4,000 children, mostly boys, were allegedly sexually abused by Catholic priests in Australia over a period of decades.
Leaders of the Catholic church in Australia have already dismissed recommendations that the Vatican should make celibacy for priests voluntary and end the secrecy of confession.
Anthony Fisher, the Archbishop of Sydney, refused to consider breaking the sanctity of confession, calling it a “distraction,” and added ending celibacy would not necessarily end child abuse.
“I think the debates about celibacy will go on however people respond to this issue,” Fisher told a press conference. “We know very well that institutions who have celibate clergy and institutions that don’t have celibate clergy both face this problem. We know very well that this happens in families that are certainly not observing celibacy- It is an issue for everyone, celibate or not.”
The Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart echoed Fisher’s views, saying that while he fully apologized on behalf of the church, he “couldn’t” report any child abuse revealed to him inside a confessional”.
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart says despite the sacredness of the confessional there is no standing back, in practical terms, on the church’s ability to report child sexual abuse. MORE: https://t.co/lODrX3JNJu pic.twitter.com/a71AoOeUN4
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) December 15, 2017