‘Culture of celibacy’ to blame for Catholic child sex abuse - study

‘Culture of celibacy’ to blame for Catholic child sex abuse - study
A five-year study into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has found that mandatory celibacy and a culture of secrecy within the entirely male-dominated clergy were “the major precipitating risk factor[s] for child sexual abuse.”

Former Catholic priest, Des Cahill, and co-author, theologian Peter Wilkinson, compiled information from 26 royal commissions and inquiries from Australia, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the Netherlands since 1985 in their report.

Cahill, now married but still a practising Catholic, began the research after he discovered he had lived and worked with several pedophile priests throughout his career in the priesthood.

READ MORE: Catholic Church ‘exploits legal loophole’ to avoid compensating child sex victims – report

He told Guardian Australia: “After the issue of abuse first became public, around 1978, I began wondering: ‘Why did this happen?’ I knew some of the priest perpetrators and I studied with them and I lived with one of them. And yet I was never aware while I was in the church. You have to understand, a priest offender is very secretive and doesn’t want to be found out.”

One of the most staggering and sickening of the report’s conclusions is that an estimated seven percent of the Catholic clergy abused children between 1950 and 2000.

While some nuns had abused children, the vast majority were male priests and bishops who maintained a culture of secrecy and non-disclosure, both as perpetrators and confidants aware of child sex abuse through the sacrament of confession.

Australia's royal commission recently called for the prosecution of Catholic priests who fail to disclose child abuse reported to them in confession.

The report cites Pope Pius X’s 1910 decision to lower the age of confession to seven indirectly put children in harm's way.

“Their contact with women in teacher training institutions would have been carefully proscribed and then they were appointed to male-only schools where they were in charge of young boys and adolescents,” the report said.

“And they were living in all-male religious communities. They had to make do with a sacralised image of a sexless Virgin Mary. It was a recipe for a psycho-spiritual disaster.”

The report also specifically highlighted the continuing risk faced by children at more 9,000 Catholic-run orphanages around the world.

The 384-page report was published Wednesday by the Center for Global Research at RMIT University.