Priests Could Have Sex Under Australian Proposal to End Church Child Abuse

catholic priests
Should they be able to have sex? Gabriel Bouys/Getty

A five-year investigation of thousands of child abuse victims in Australia has led to one stunning recommendation: that the Catholic Church should allow priests to have sex in order to curb child abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse reviewed more than 8,000 cases since 2013, and found that schoolteachers and religious ministers accounted for the most child abuse complaints. Catholic priests accounted for 61.4 percent of the alleged religious perpetrators.

With that stat in mind, the final report released Friday offered hundreds of recommendations, including an end to the Catholic Church's centuries-old policy for compulsory celibacy, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The report said celibacy was "not a direct cause of child sexual abuse" but certainly "contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse, especially when combined with other risk factors."

Pope Francis deemed child sex abuse by Catholic priests a "monstrosity" last year and promised to crack down on priests who violated the compulsory celibacy rule.

"We will counter those priests who betrayed their calling with the most strenuous measures. This also applies to the bishops and cardinals who protected these priests—as happened repeatedly in the past," Pope Francis wrote.

It is unclear how well the anti-celibacy proposal will go over. Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney immediately sought to widen the discussion beyond pedophilia by priests, saying that child abuse is "an issue for everyone, celibate or not." The commission also recommended that priests should have to report child abuse cases that they hear in confessionals to authorities, asking bishops to appeal the secrecy law to the Vatican. But that also may be a nonstarter.

"The seal of the confessional, or the relationship with God that's carried through the priest and with the person, is inviolable," said Australian Archbishop Denis Hart.

In any event, changes are coming. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Trumbull said the report "exposed a national tragedy" and called for a task force to start acting on the recommendations as early as next month.

Priests Could Have Sex Under Australian Proposal to End Church Child Abuse | World