The head of the Catholic Church in Austria said the possible reasons behind sex abuse crises which have hit Austria, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands in recent weeks should be subjected to "unflinching examination". In an article for an in-house Church magazine, Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, called for a debate on celibacy, as the Vatican struggles to address a growing sex abuse crisis. He said it was time to examine "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." His office later put out a "clarification" – reportedly under pressure from the Holy See – saying that the archbishop was "in no way seeking to question the Catholic Church's celibacy rule."

A Vatican expert, Bruno Bartoloni, said that Cardinal Schönborn was warning that "paedophilia can reflect the frustration of those priests who are not at ease with being celibate."

The Vatican's official newspaper, Osservatore Romano, added fuel to the debate with a front-page article suggesting that the "masculine conspiracy of silence" could be overcome if nuns and laywomen played a more prominent role in the Church.

But the Vatican insisted that the principle of celibacy was not open to negotiation.

COMMENT: Nuns and laywomen have been helping "those priests who are not at ease with being celibate" ever since the Roman Catholic hierarchy came up with the silly rule. What Cardinal Schönborn is calling for is honesty and openness, something the Roman Catholic hierarchy have had huge problems with even longer than they have had the silly celibacy rule.




  1. Sad, just sad. Since Peter, the “first Pope”, had a mother-in-law, one must assume from the scriptures that he was married. So, there is no core scriptural basis for priestly celibacy, only subsequent “innovation” in the Middle Ages. And that has been perceived by many modern scholars as nothing more than a scheme to ensure priests would not have families to support or bequeath their property at death, allowing the church to get everything. At some point, the lack of priests will force them to change this, or have to change into some sort of non-liturgical church where priests aren’t needed for sacramental blessings. Get the popcorn – this should be pretty interesting…..

  2. I get very uncomfortable with this line of thought that concludes celibacy leads to pedophilia. I have no doubt that apart from a genuine calling, celibacy can lead to many unhealthy responses. However, I was celibate for 40 years and never had a hankerin’ for a child. Pedophilia is committed by pedophiles, “celibate” or otherwise. Full stop.

  3. I don’t agree, KJ. I think a good deal of clerical abuse of children is opportunistic and not necessarily connected to paedophilia. It’s similar to the way some non gays will go for sex with other men in prison rather than no sex at all. And you have to remember that there is far more sexual abuse of adult women by priests than there is sexual abuse of children.

  4. Their justification that celibacy allows them to be fully responsive to their flock is a real crock. My family was never ministered to in times of serious illness, etc. by the RC clergy. Father was “never available.” Only when we joined TEC were we ministered to by the clergy who, by the way, were married!

    Celibacy freely chosen is one thing; forced celibacy attached to ordination is quite another.

  5. RE: “Pedophilia is committed by pedophiles, “celibate” or otherwise. Full stop.”

    Amen to that. Every time I hear the BS celibacy argument, I have to ask “then how do you explain my stepfather, a married man, not being able to keep his hands off of me until I left the state and ran off to Florida?”

    Sorry, but it holds no water for me or anyone else who has been sexually abused by a married person.

  6. I guess I’d like to see some research on the connection. It is so far from my experience as to be unimaginable. I don’t know what percentage of the abuse has been perpetrated upon post pubescent boys and women, but the celibacy-abuse connection is something I could understand, though not excuse. However, when one can commit sexual abuse upon a child, something much more than “celibacy” is going on.

  7. IMHO one must separate out two distinct behavior patterns here. True paedophilia – in which the victims are prepubescent children of either gender and what I would call stifled, adolescent homoerotic attraction in which the severely closeted priest is attracted to adolescent males who are essentially at the same stage of sexual development. From these two categories, I would add the separate group of priests who managed to develop more adult senses of sexuality and end up having relations with either adult men or adult women – from this group is the sub-group of priests who coerce their adult partners, often misusing the power of the collar.

    Given the predominance of the Roman church globally – it is not surprising the high incidence of sexual abuse – when the church sets itself up as a safe haven for individuals unwilling or unable to come to terms with their sexuality. The Vow of Celibacy offers emotional cover to all sorts of troubled souls unwilling to look deep inside of themselves. Unsure of why you get a funny feeling watching the big strapping farm boy next door? Not really interested in girls? Ship yourself off to a seminary at 17 and become a priest and NEVER deal with it!

  8. There’s a post at Reuter’s FaithWorld blog that has some people explaining that a celibate lifestyle can attrack people who are pedophiles, because they hope it will help them put their sexuality behind them, but it doesn’t usually work out that way … link

  9. I don’t know, KJ. Perhaps the gay sex urge is more like the female sex urge (in other words, it’s there, but rarely all consuming). My point is that there are jokes about men and sheep, melons, male prisons etc. because it’s true. Quite a high proportion of men will, if the real thing isn’t available, shag anything. I mean, I don’t think the market for male sex dolls is anywhere near the size of the market for female sex dolls. You see what I mean? I really don’t think all abuse of children by priests is caused by clinical paedophilia. I think that many cases are simply sex starved men who think it’s less dangerous to molest a child than an adult.

  10. The Roman Catholic hierarchy will try its best to deflect the child abuse scandals onto these “paedophiles who want to put their sexuality behind them,” because that will get the hierarchy off the hook on the celibacy and power cause abuse accusations.


    You see, horrible that the child sex abuse scandals are the numbers involved are infinitesimal when compared to the number of women and men who are sexually abused by priests. Forget about the children – enforced clerical celibacy should be banned because it causes straight men to abuse straight women and gay men to abuse gay men and a very few paedophiles to abuse children.

  11. “But the Vatican insisted that the principle of celibacy was not open to negotiation.”

    In cults, things are never changed by negotiation. What happens is that the next cult leader comes along and just changes it. My guess is that the next liberal Pope will just order celibacy over.

    But it may not be so good for the RCC because the less weired things you believe the less cult-like you become. Can the RCC survive as a real church, i.e. without being a cult? I’m not sure.

  12. For what it’s worth, I agree with you, Jonathan, and I’ve caught flak for saying so at my blog. Hans Kung and Archbishop Schonborn agree, as well as a man I correspond with who spent many years counseling abusive priests. He tells me that research and studies on the subject are few.

    Is a pedophile born or made? Consider that some of the older priests entered seminary at age 13 and could have been abused in seminary. No one is saying that celibacy is the sole cause of child abuse in the RCC, but it seems to me to be a factor.

    The RCC priestly formation process is to deny sexuality, which puts men with any kind of sex drive in an impossible situation. Sexuality will out, and if normal outlets are not available, then certain men take the abusive route, and not just with children. The attitudes toward sexuality in the RCC are so totally fecked up as to be unbelievable. Men of my generation and even younger were taught in seminary that women were occasions of sin. Half of God’s human creation are occasions of sin?

  13. Yeah, I agree that mandatory celibacy should be done away with and that married men and women should get to be priests.

  14. Half of God’s human creation are occasions of sin?

    Well, I must admit, on the very few occasions that I have taken the name of the Lord in vain and blasphemed, a woman has always been involved in the events leading up to it.

  15. Let’s go all the way, Crystal and insist that all ordinands, male and female, must have sex before becoming priests. Then they would know what it’s all about. I mean, you wouldn’t trust a mechanic to change the oil in your car engine if that mechanic didn’t know where to put his dipstick, would you?

  16. “I don’t know, KJ. Perhaps the gay sex urge is more like the female sex urge (in other words, it’s there, but rarely all consuming).”

    Er….uhm….erm…I don’t want to get in trouble with or speak for the wimmins, but speaking from the experience of a close “friend,” …uhm…….I don’t think so.

    I think that I’ve mentioned here before, my first sexual experience was with a “celibate” priest, who in the wise words of Renz “managed to develop more adult senses of sexuality.” I don’t blame him, however, as I’m sure my evangelicalism was irresistible, little temptress that I am (I can laugh now; I assure you that when I realized I was being used, I was not laughing then.).

  17. KJ: I could not agree more.

    Perhaps the gay sex urge is more like the female sex urge (in other words, it’s there, but rarely all consuming)


    Not sure what research this is based on. Yes, for what it’s worth, I don’t agree either.

  18. No research. I’m merely not speaking on behalf of gay men or women. Although women, on the whole, don’t seem to have the same inclination to abuse in order to satisfy their sexual urges that a lot of men do.

  19. no, true, and perhaps women don’t abuse as often: but this is no indication in itself of how strong the instinct is to start with, just how strong the barrier or disinclination is against abuse.

  20. No. Women are as sinful as men. Women don’t have extra will power or a higher moral imperative. It must be something natural in men.

  21. To paraphrase a late 18th century English woman writer:

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that all men, except gay men, are beasts, and must be in want of someone or something to abuse.

  22. It must be something natural in men

    What must?

    I dunno what point you’re making. Men in prisons will make do with other men. Women in prisons make do with other women. Wherein lies the difference? …

    Just asking.

  23. No, Mimi. I don’t think all men want to abuse. I think a great many men will abuse to satisfy their sexual urges, if a non-abusive course of action is not, in their minds, available to them. Of course, this is not all men. Most men will overcome such desires with will power rather than hurt somebody, especially children. This proves that most men are morally superior to all women because women don’t have to overcome a sexually sinful nature.

  24. Okay, Cathy. I admit I have no idea whether I’m right on the following or not. But I’m willing to bet a heck of a lot of money that there are far more incidents of rape in a male prison than in a female prison, even if the incidents of loving sexual relationships are the same in both male and female prisons. Remember, we are on about abuse here.

  25. So now you’re all serious, Jonathan? When I was serious, you yanked the conversation to joking. I’m confused. If we’re back to serious, in a certain sense, you make at least one of my points.

  26. mmm, dunno: I suspect in prisons the incidences of abuse are probably about the same. They might take somewhat different forms tho. Just as bullying takes different forms in boys’ and girls’ schools.

    But what do I know either?? ….

  27. If Australian TV is anything to go by, women prisoners are more bullying than men ever could be. But the sexual abuse will be far less than in a male prison.

  28. Not to know is a rather serious impediment to conversation.

    At last I’ve discovered how to stop Mimi talking.
    Rest eternal grant unto me…
    I must write and tell Tom.

  29. Well now, if we’re going by Australia TV, where do I start? …

    On a serious note, I’m not sure Cell Block H did have anything definitive to say on this question. As sorry as I am to say it.

  30. Okay, being very serious for a moment and going back to my original point that I don’t think men have to be paedophiles to abuse children let me put it this way.

    Most men are not sexually attracted to children. But then most men are not sexually attracted to their pillows either.

    Now, do you get what I’m saying?

  31. Alas, as sorry as I am to say it, I fear there was acting, MP.

    Yes, there was no butch lesbian forcing the inmates to do her wicked will, I’m afraid.

    All fiction.

  32. I get it, Jonathan. I agree. I think that certain more or less normal (whatever that means) men are ruined by the RC priesthood. The fetid atmosphere of all-male patriarchy, the denial of sexuality, the hypocrisy, and more destroys them.

    Cathy, I don’t think all women are beasts.

  33. Mimi – reading over this again this morning, we may be working off a slightly different definition of “beast” anyway, I think.

    But look, what do I know.

  34. Mad Priest said : “Although women, on the whole, don’t seem to have the same inclination to abuse in order to satisfy their sexual urges that a lot of men do.”

    I went to a very informative CCPAS (Churches Child Protection Advisory Service) course last year. One of the things that emerged was that, while it used to be thought that women hardly ever absused children, now that the issue is more open, more and more people abused by women are coming forward.

    If I remember correctly, CCPAS said, almost a third of alleged abuses of children are now attributed to women -less than those carried out by men, but much higher than the general perceptions of female abuse.

  35. I apologize for jumping into this discussion so late (I’ve been out preaching a sermon that wasn’t about Mothering Sunday; most American parishes don’t do Mothering Sunday; MP’s sermon pretty well explains why not, and arguably why we should!).

    But MP says: “Although women, on the whole, don’t seem to have the same inclination to abuse in order to satisfy their sexual urges that a lot of men do.”

    I claim no special professional expertise in this field, but it is my understanding that abuse really doesn’t have very much to do with “sexual urges.” It’s about power. Sex is of course a very effective weapon to use in wielding power (including among married heterosexual couples), but simply dealing with the “sexual urges” of people — whether they be celibate priests, married clergy, or men or women incarcerated in prison — is not going to solve the problem of abuse.

  36. Men are kept in check by their wives. Nowadays, a single male will have multiple sexual partners but most, on getting married will restrict themselves to just the one. This is due to the fear factor. Unmarried male priests don’t have the fear factor in their lives and so they behave like single men not married men.

  37. Wot WSJM said.

    Males may have a greater sex drive ON AVERAGE than females, but their order-of-magnitude higher abuse rates have to do w/ greater male power (as in “authority”, not so much in physical strength).