‘No evidence’ celibacy leads to abuse

Claims that priestly celibacy leads to sexual abuse have been rejected by a leading expert.


US-based Prof. Philip Jenkins, who has spent decades researching the area told The Irish Catholic this week that there is “no evidence whatever that Catholic or other celibate clergy are any more or less likely to be involved in misconduct or abuse than clergy of any other denomination – or indeed, than non-clergy or secular professionals dealing with children”.


It comes after Fr Tony Flannery, a member of the leadership of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) called on the Church to investigate whether there is a link between celibacy and abuse.


According to Fr Flannery: “nobody within the official Church has looked at the deeper issues and seriously asked the question why so many priests and religious did these things, because it raises fundamental questions about the lifestyle of priests.


“Can they say with any degree of definiteness that the fact that so many priests abused children is not connected to celibacy and clericalism and the whole style of life that a priest is forced to live today? I don’t think they can and until such time as the Church authorities face up to that and seriously discuss it and investigate it, the problem will not go away.”


He questioned if these factors had caused some priests to “turn to children for sexual outlets”.


Prof. Jenkins, emeritus professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, told The Irish Catholic that if anyone wished to contest his research “I would ask for the evidence on which they base that opinion. “Everybody knows’ does not constitute social scientific evidence,” he said.


Fr Flannery is currently in conflict with Church authorities and suspended from ministry over a controversial article he wrote in which he said he no longer believed that “the priesthood as we currently have it in the Church originated with Jesus”.