Abuse & Celibacy: Austrian Cardinal Opens the Can of Worms (UPDATED)

As the problems of sexual abuse within the Church continue to cascade across Europe, The Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna has called on the Church to investigate fully the causes of the problem, including the role of celibacy and methods of priestly training.  This is should be welcomed with enthusiasm:  observers and analysts outside the Church establishment have for years been producing convincing evidence that these are two of the crucial issues behind the creation of the enabling environment, evidence which most bishops have simply ignored.   In an odd sequel, though, Cardinal Schonborn later issued a “clarifying” statement that he was not calling into question the Vatican stance on compulsory celibacy.  In doing so, he brings into sharp focus the third of the factors widely believed to be behind that enabling environment:  excessive central control and abuse of power. For there is little point in “investigating” the causes if you rule out in advance certain conclusions that  might follow, or fail to act on the conclusions you might reach, but the Cardinal knows full well that an unfavourable conclusion on celibacy will be totally unacceptable to the Vatican – and so threatening to his own position.  It is not at all accidental that Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, through his extensive work with the Australian problems with abuse, reached the firm conclusion that celibacy was indeed central to the issue – but waited until his retirement before publishing those conclusions.

Cardinal Shonborn - under his watchful eye.

Still, every little step forward is welcome.  The institutional response is clearly “evolving”, and will evolve a lot further before this is over. Read the rest of this entry »

Marriage Equality: In Europe, a Human Right?

I have shown before how marriage equality has been spreading relentlessly across Europe, but in some cases (as in the UK), this takes the form of strong civil unions rather than full marriage. There are also a few countries, notable staunchly Catholic Italy and Poland, which are holding out. This could change.

(Dark blue – full marriage; light blue – civil unions; yellow – legislation in preparation; red – prohibited.)

The European Union has been drawing ever more closely together politically, and in the field of human rights. As some British conservatives have found to their costs, there have been numerous cases where European human rights directives have forced changes in British law. Now, an Austrian couple have taken their fight for the right to marry to the European Court of human Rights. On the face of it, the prospects are good. The court has a good record on LGBT rights, and the parameters are clear: human rights are defined to guarantee both the right to marry, and freedom from discrimination on the grounds of orientation.

“Their European case argues that in refusing them a marriage license, Austria violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantee the rights to marry, protect one’s property and not be discriminated against based on sexual orientation.” Read the rest of this entry »