ARCHBISHOP Not Shackled by Celibacy
February 8, 2017
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge does not feel shackled by celibacy, nor does he view it as one of the causes of widespread child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Coleridge says he made a free decision to choose to live a celibate life when he was ordained in his 20s.
"I've never had the sense of being shackled, of having a burden imposed upon me by an oppressive church," he told the child abuse royal commission on Wednesday.
The inquiry into the complex reasons behind child abuse in the Catholic Church has heard research shows less than 50 per cent of priests at any given time are actually practising celibacy.
Archbishop Coleridge said he wasn't naive enough to think most clergy lived a strictly celibate life.
But he wasn't persuaded clerical celibacy was a causative factor in child sexual abuse by priests and religious.
"It still seems to me, however, the question as to whether it was a major aggravating factor is on the table. It has to be," he said.
"At the same time, the assumption that celibate life is impossible - in other words that the human being cannot live without sexual activity - is clearly wrong. It's not like sleep or food."
University of Sydney law professor Patrick Parkinson says celibacy in itself does not cause child sexual abuse, as many children are abused by men who were not living celibate lives.
"The combination, I think, of mandatory celibacy and unchosen celibacy really for many priests and religious combined with the emotional isolation of being in the position of pastoral responsibility that they have is, I think, causative," he said.
Professor Parkinson said it explained some of the shocking figures before the commission - that more than 20 per cent of religious brothers in some Catholic orders have been accused of child abuse.
"It explains the increased increased risk - which I think is still there - of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church community compared to some sort of general level of risk which is also quite high in the general population," he said.
Archbishop Coleridge told the commission celibate living did not inevitably lead to emotional isolation.
"I have lived a celibate life for the best part of 50 years and I can't say that I've been racked by loneliness."