Celibacy vows to stay despite sex abuse scand


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13-03-2010 08:06 AM


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13-03-2010 08:06 AM



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Celibacy vows to stay despite sex abuse scandal

Emma Alberici reported this story on Saturday, March 13, 2010 08:06:00

ELIZABETH JACKSON: In the wake of the latest sex abuse claims in the Catholic Church in Germany, a
number of senior clergy have called for a debate on the issue of celibacy in the priesthood. But
overnight, Pope Benedict quashed any suggestions of a change in the vow of celibacy, calling it the
ultimate commitment to God.

Our Europe correspondent Emma Alberici has this report.

EMMA ALBERICI: The Bible tells us something about the earliest attitudes to priests and sex. In the
New Testament Peter clearly had a wife, but by the 12th century a general counsel of the church had
passed an unequivocal edict banning married priests. There are exceptions, including the Vatican's
recent admission of married clergy who converted from the Anglican faith. But as a rule, Catholic
priests are supposed to be celibate.

But over the past week a number of leading figures in the church have publically questioned the
modern relevance of the vowel of celibacy, among them the Archbishop of Vienna, who called for a
thorough examination of the possible link between celibacy and child sex abuse by priests. The
Archbishop of Salzburg also asked whether it was appropriate way of life for priests of today.

Father Thomas Williams is a Catholic priest and professor of theology and ethics in Rome.

FATHER THOMAS WILLIAMS: I think studies need to be done and we need to know whether there is a
causal relationship. Is, for example, the incidence of child abuse higher among celibate clergy
than it is among, for example, non-celibate clergy of other faiths, just to start?

Or is it higher among celibate clergy - Catholic priests for example - than it is among other
people that work with children; say in public schools, the boy scouts; whatever. These are studies
that need to be done.

EMMA ALBERICI: Since the start of his papacy in 2005, Pope Benedict has met with abuse victims in
the Unites States and in Australia. Now Europe is in the spotlight. Crimes the Pope called heinous
were exposed in Ireland last year, and now in the Pope's home country of Germany, 19 of the 27
dioceses have been implicated in a flood of allegations of child sex abuse. Among the 170 known
German cases, is the name of Norbert Denef.

NORBERT DENEF (translated): When I was 10 years old the local priest selected me to be an altar
boy. I was very excited. After the service, he took me up to his apartment. I felt very proud. But
he locked the door, sat down and undid my trousers. Then he performed a sexual act on me. At that
very moment he murdered my soul.

EMMA ALBERICI: Norbert Denef is now 61 years old. The priest who abused him was a friend of his
parents. The abuse carried on for five years until a church organisation intervened. The priest was
transferred to a different parish, but shockingly, members of the organisation itself then began
sexually abusing Norbert Denef.

NORBERT DENEF (translated): This is only the tip of the iceberg. If you hear 10 people talking
about how they were abused, you can be certain that there are 10,000 more victims remaining silent.
It's also misleading to say that the sexual abuse happened 30 years ago and not talk about what is
happening now.

EMMA ALBERICI: Overnight Germany's top Catholic cleric met with the Pope and issued a new apology
to those affected. He announced the creation of a watchdog to monitor abuse claims.

This is Emma Alberici reporting for Saturday AM.