The National Catholic Review

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, conservative Archbishop of Vienna and an ordinary to Austria's Eastern Rite Catholics, said this question should be considered as part of an “unflinching examination” of the possible causes of the scandal.

From The Times:

These included “the issue of priests’ training”, he wrote in his archdiocese magazine, “the question of priest celibacy and the question of personality development. It requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the Church and of society as a whole”.

But, according to the Vatican, Schönborn's intent was not to directly challenge the church's current teaching on celibacy:

The Vatican said the remarks had been misinterpreted. “Priestly celibacy is a gift of the Holy Spirit,” Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, said at a theological convention on priestly fidelity.

Cardinal Schönborn’s spokesman, Erich Leitenberger, issued a clarification later claiming that the cardinal was not “in any way seeking to question the Catholic Church’s celibacy rule”. Sources in Rome said he had been obliged to issue his “clarification” under pressure from the Holy See.

This isn't the first time the Cardinal has attempted to open discussion on the issue.

Last year in Rome, Cardinal Schönborn, who has always been close to the Pope, presented a petition signed by leading Austrian lay Catholics calling for the abolition of the requirement for priestly celibacy.

Cardinal Schönborn told Vatican Radio last year that he did not agree with the petition’s conclusions, which also included a demand for women deacons, but added: “It is important for someone in Rome to know what some of our lay people are thinking about the problems of the Church.”

But to use Schönborn's comments to fuel an argument about priestly celibacy distracts from the larger intent of his statement: The Church cannot prevent further abuse if it does not understand why such devastating acts have occurred. In this context, a refusal to closely examine any aspect of the priesthood is to neglect the need to search for a deeper understanding of why these abuses happened and whether some aspects of the priests' way of life may have enabled these abuses. In addition, Schönborn's willingness to listen and learn from laypeople and to present his findings to Rome sends an encouraging message to lay Catholics who hope their concerns, on any issue, will be heard by the heirarchy. A better understanding of these concerns can only help the Vatican in its efforts to find meaningful and relevant ways to minister to the diverse crowd of believers who, together, form the church.

Kerry Weber

Comments

S Bond | 3/15/2010 - 2:03pm
Anonymous, I am so very sorry for all you've suffered.  God bless and keep you.
 
Donald Baker | 3/13/2010 - 1:32pm
A question: would pedophilia end if priests could marry? Many seem to think that the answer to this question is yes. But the average profile of a pedophile is a MARRIED HETEROSEXUAL male. Sexual abuse of children has nothing to do with celibacy per se. It can provide a cover for people who wish access to children, in a role which commands respect. However, to single out celibate priesthood makes a mockery of the argument such a move seeks to support. Should we also not single out school teachers? Camp counselors?  Sports coaches? all of these positions grant access to children and command respect as well - and from what I hear on the nightly news, abuse still continues in all these places.
 
Some rightly point out that such abuse has nothing to do with sex as ''gift and Mystery'' (to quote John Paul II) in a relationship between adults, but everything to do with power and control. Perhaps on some level we all know this and THIS is the reason the Church comes in for such criticism. For some see the way in which the Church acts as just another example of the lust for power and control over people's lives, that is expressed on an individual level in an act of sexual abuse. They equate the two, and thus react towards both similarly.
I am no psychologist, but I do still think that the Church acts the way it does because it feels it has to be responsive to its tradition, and not primarily because it ''gets off'' on power (its individual members notwithstanding) or seeks to protect pedophiles in its midst. Its reaction to the abuse scandal has been reprehensible, but slowly but surely it is learning. Safe environment, Virtus training and all the rest are part of this painful process. 
Thus the way forward is to continue to instruct the church of the necessity to deal with pedophilia openly and clearly. Celibacy is secondary to this discussion.
Michael Bindner | 3/13/2010 - 11:07am
Mike Brooks, that's not a very nice thing to say about priests. Sex can be a building thing for a while, but in a good marriage, desire wanes and love increases. That kind of emotional stability would be good within the priesthood.

Jeff Landry, you can go on thinking that what I say is from the 60s and 70s if it makes you feel better, however...
WILLIAM ATKINSON | 3/13/2010 - 12:31pm
When you think of much of historical theology, psycology and philosophy is based on Natural Law, and yet so much importance is placed in the Roman church on Bishops and Priests required to live out a un-natural sexuality the results are very evident and have been through the ages.   The natural human experience is sexual intercourse, to do otherwise or even demand otherwise is so unatural it shakes the foundation of knowing, believing, and having faith in the truest nature of our creator, since Adam and Eve the direction of our God, is reroduction and pleasure, to do otherwise is to thwart the creators design of His magnificent creations.   The Roman church puts heavy heavy emphasis on creation and development of men and women copulation within the solumninety of marriage, and thus to require or do otherwise is a grave offense to the divine and human nature of God and His creation.
Jesus teaches that the most horrifying crime in his fathers kingdom is twarting his fathers design of children, and Jesus condems all to be cast with (10 ton millstone) into everlasting pit of eternity.  Note this is the only Jesus teaching of eternal damnation given to those who would lead and corrupt childrens lives.   Damnation at the hands of Jesus, Himself.
MAUREEN TURLISH SISTER | 3/13/2010 - 9:31am
Yes, indeed, celibacy is a gift and those who can take it as gift, take it, but it was never a requirement for priesthood in the early church. It was not so in the beginning and for centuries it was not the sine qua non it is now in the Roman Catholic rite. Nor is it a requirement before ordination in rites other than the Roman. In rites like the Ukrainian, for example, men have the option to marry before ordination but not after.

Celibacy as such is not the cause, per se, of the widespread abuse of children, young women, men and vulnerable adults including women religiou in countries worldwide.

There are many people in this world who live celibate or chaste lifestyles. It doesn not follow that they are therefore sexual predators.

Celibacy as contributory, yes, but as the experts tell us it is the psycho-sexual immaturity of the majority of men who have been coming into the seminary and being ordained to the priesthood that is more problematic and why, because historically there were no programs in place to educate them in their own sexuality and how one integrates it into a celibate life.

More importantly, sexual crimes against children and adults are primarily crimes of power and control and only secondarily about sex.

As far as the institutional Roman Catholic church is concerned, its problems are more fundamental, more basic. They are both systemic and endemic to the institution and it has been going on for centuries.

There are cases of childhood sexual abuse of both males and females that have been documented in the United States as far back as the 1930s and 1940s. In truth, there is no way that the church's present predicament was ''caused'' by the ''sexual revolution of 1960s.

Such a statement has no more validity than saying that the cause was the spread of Communism! The hierarchy first tried to say it was an American problem, then a homosexual problem. Now some cardinals are attempting to place the blame on ''the sexual revolution of the 1960s as attempted by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn hardly accounts for the abuse that went on for decades even centuries before!

The bishops need to get a grip on reality and look at their own episcopal abuse of power and authority which led them to make conscious decisions to abandon victims of sexual abuse by bishops, priests, seminarians, deacons, nuns or other ministry workers while protecting and enabling sexual predators instead.

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Victims' Advocate
New Castle, Delaware, USA
maureenpaulturlish@yahoo.com
Anushree Shirali | 3/12/2010 - 6:08pm
As a woman who was sexually molested as a child, I welcome the day that I will understand what makes men and to a lesser degree, women, prey on children.  But I can't help but think that at least in the case of the Catholic Church, the answer will be a long time coming because the approach seems to be based on which doctrinal bend you turn.  Your liberal commentator will commonly say that of course the answer is celibacy.  Your conservative commentator will most often blame it on homosexual ''infiltration'' of the priesthood.  What irks me in this attitude is that somehow the molestation of children is only about satisfying sexual needs.  If this was true, then the celibate priest whose only interest is in seeking sexual gratification would do so in affairs with adults.  And indeed, this is the case with priests who have had sexual intercourse with parishioners.  But there is a evil sickness that would lead any man or woman to justify attacking a child.  I don't have answers and believe me, my heart aches for them but I do know from my own experience that molesters are a special breed of evil that come from all walks of life.  In my own case, I was raped by a married man with 4 children.   If one extends the logic behind simply blaming voluntary celibacy, as one of the commentors above has done, then one could easily blame my molester's wife for not meeting the sexual needs of her husband in leading him to rape me.   The answers to pedophilia are not simple and until we realize that we can't try to fit the answers to our Catholic slant (liberal or conservative), children will continue to be victimized.
Anonymous | 3/12/2010 - 4:25pm
Well, Mr. Bindner, at least your tired, stale 60s/70s-esque views apply consistently between your political and theological views.  
 
I think a clerical culture & inadequate screening lay at the root of the matter more than who we are (or are not) ordaining.
Anonymous | 3/12/2010 - 4:13pm
The world has know for thousands of years that sexual promiscuity and sexual deviance are threats to human civilization. Sexual promiscuity and sexual deviance has led to the sickness and deaths of countless people over the centuries via AIDS, sexually-caused cancers, and countless other sexually transmitted diseases. Sexual promiscuity leads to children born out of wedlock, children born from children, child poverty, divorce and the destruction of families, rape, and pornography, and the abuse of women and children.

Sex feeds on sex; sex does not end one's sexual urges. To suggest that ending celibacy for priests would stem child molestation by priests is poppycock. What is more likely is that the priesthood is a natural draw for men with hypersexual homosexual and pedophilial urges.
Brian Thompson | 3/12/2010 - 4:38pm
I am not so sure. If there is apparently no connection between any other sexual abnormalities and abuse, why should we assume celibacy is the root of the problem. I suspect that the present concerns about celibacy is an agenda in search of an argument. There are people who, for some reason, dont like clerical celibacy and so they latch on to whatever issue looks like it could justify their goal. That said, the cardinal is right, we do need to do a better job forming good celibate clerics. It cannot just be a requirement, it has to be something adequately prepared for and seen as a gift and a charism and something that requires positive effort and which has expansive meaning, beyond just sexual continence.
Michael Bindner | 3/12/2010 - 1:52pm
I used to not think that celibacy had anything to do with pedophilia until I learned that celibacy has its origins in a belief that sexuality for the married is incompatible with spirituality - that is it rooted in the belief that said relations render one impure for celebrating the Eucharist.

Poppycock. The fruit of this tree is homophobia, pedophilia, a clerical opinion on birth control that does not comport with science and an obsession with teenage masturbation, not to mention a misogynistic refusal to consider women priests.

Ending celibacy and ordaining women will clear out much, though not all, of this dysfunction.