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.
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 »