What price, chastity?

By | 2013/07/29

Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy. It’s one of the most well-known facts of how the catholic priesthood works.


one in 15 Melbourne priests is a child abuser [and] Catholic priests offend at six times the rate of all other churches put together

Church leaders hit back at clergy abuse inquiry claims, The Age, Barney Zwartz, March 30, 2013.

Child sexual abuse is a world-wide problem but to all appearances appears particularly endemic within the catholic church. That the church has spent untold amounts of money denying, hushing up or issuing compensations for abuse seems undeniable.

crocodileI find myself drawn to the obvious question – how much of this abuse has come from the enforced and unnatural doctrine of celibacy for priests?

Consider that testimony at the abuse inquiry in Victoria:

Catholic priests offend at six times the rate of all other churches put together

How much of this stems from a vow of no sex? Is it that many of the men who offend in the church would otherwise have been ordinary men? Ordinary men who would have happily married and not gone near a kid … but unable to control their urges, lash out at vulnerable people who can’t readily voice their rejection? Did it start that way, but then over the decades become so institutionalised and so accepted within the church that it subsequently became a haven for people who are inappropriately inclined to abuse children?

It seems likely, given the amount of evidence that is lacking and all the effort that has gone towards keeping the situation under wraps, that this is something that won’t be fully understood for generations. Yet it remains a valid question: what price has enforced chastity had in this situation?