From Our Ruth in THE TIMES:

Roman Catholic theologian, Father Hans Kung, has linked clerical sex abuse with priestly celibacy, blaming the Church’s “uptight” views on sex for child abuse scandals in Germany, Ireland and the US and adding that the Church’s attitude was also revealed in its opposition to birth control.

Writing in The Tablet, Father Kung said that it was the case that abuse was found also in families, schools and other churches. But he asked: “Why is it so prevalent in the Catholic Church under celibate leadership?” He said that celibacy was not the only cause of the misconduct but described it as “the most important and structurally the most decisive” expression of the Church’s uptight attitude to sex.

Citing the New Testament, he says that Jesus and St Paul practised celibacy but “allowed full freedom in this matter to each individual”. St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians wrote: “Because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Peter and the apostles were married and their ministries did not suffer, he said, pointing out that thousands of priests protested when the new law was introduced as late as the 11th century.

Father Kung said: “Compulsory celibacy is the principal reason for today’s catastrophic shortage of priests, for the fatal neglect of eucharistic celebration, and for the tragic breakdown of personal pastoral ministry in many places.”

He argues that there are two simple solutions to the shortage of priests: “Abolition of the celibacy rule, the root of all these evils, and the admission of women to ordination. The bishops know this, but they do not have the courage to say it in public.”

The German church has rejected any suggestion that abuse is linked to celibacy.

COMMENT: You would think a church that bases so much of it's dogma on natural law would be more understanding of the natural needs of all its adherents, including its priests. Sex is about as natural as it gets.
If the Roman Catholic hierarchy believes that birth control and same sex marriage will lead to the breakdown of society because they are, in their opinion, unnatural, then surely they should also believe that celibacy, being blatantly unnatural if you apply the logic of their natural law theories, will also lead to antisocial behaviour. They want their cake and to eat it too when the sensible thing would be to allow their priests to have their crumpet and eat it too.



  1. You know, I don’t think this has anything to do with natural law at all. These guys are just so screwed up about sex, if they could they’d ban it altogether. As it is, they restrict it as much as they possibly can.
    It’s what you get when you have sexually disfuntional men running the church, it becomes a perpetuating viscious cycle.

  2. “the sensible thing would be to allow their priests to have their crumpet and eat it too.”

    If you are now advocating oral sex MP then I think you have gone too far. This is too big a leap!

  3. I think a big problem, in addition to compulsory celibacy, is lack of accountability and transparency. Secretive organizations where no one is accountable, and where the priesthood is very powerful, its authority unquestionable, and its office very charismatic, tend to breed corruption. This is true for scandal-prone evangelical churches as well as for the Roman church.

    Our much maligned democratic polity in the Episcopal Church has certainly not eliminated corruption, but it has mostly confined it to more conventional varieties of basic greed and laziness. Open processes and published budgets tend to discourage the darker and more occult varieties of corruption that thrive in secrecy.

  4. This whole approach to sex is one of the many things that makes a lot of people who are not Christians assume Christianity has got absolutely nothing relevant to say about life.

  5. I admire the guts of Fr. Kung in putting this very rational position in public. Unfortunately the hierarchy in the RC church is not rational.

  6. On a more serious note, though, and I just said the same over at Mimi’s, I think we’re in danger of making too easy a connection.
    Enforced celibacy is not a linear cause of abuse.
    A healthy adult who cannot cope with the sexual pressure goes and has affairs with other adults.
    To abuse children is a completely different kettle of fish.
    And rather than say that enforced celibacy causes abuse, I’d say that people who battle with their sexuality are more drawn to the Catholic priesthood because it seems to be a safe way out.
    Then they discover it isn’t.

  7. I disagree, Erika. I think most priestly abuse of children is opportunistic (eg. an easy way to relieve sexual desire) rather than due to entrenched paedophilia.

  8. MP,
    but it still doesn’t quite figure. I mean, however sexually deprived I might feel, nothing in the world would get me to fancy a child. The idea alone would be the biggest turn-off.
    If you’re the kind of guy who can be turned on by children, you’re already screwed up.
    In the real world you might never abuse a child, but you somehow have to have this potential in you, don’t you?
    And then enforced celibacy and opportunity bring it to the fore.

  9. I think it can be said that it is beyond doubt that this is predominantly a male problem (there are some female child abusers, but very few). Therefore, Erika, I don’t think your sexuality can be cited usefully in this conversation. We know that the male sexual urge can lead some men to have sex with almost any person or any thing.