March 15th, 2010
07:23 PM ET

Church officials defend celibacy, reject link to sex abuse by priests

Program note: Tune in tonight at 10pm ET to see Gary Tuchman's report on the sex abuse scandal in the church.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/15/vatican.jpg]

John Thavis
Catholic News Service

As the Year for Priests moves into its final phase, a chorus of Vatican officials and experts has defended priestly celibacy and rejected the idea that celibacy has anything to do with sexual abuse by priests.

The latest to take on critics of celibacy was Manfred Lutz, chief of psychiatry at a German hospital and a consultant to the Congregation for Clergy.

Speaking at a theological convention on the priesthood in Rome March 12, Lutz said people who view celibacy as "unnatural" fail to understand the positive value of self-control in human sexuality.

"Science now tells us that there is no correlation between celibacy and pedophilia," Lutz told an audience of about 700 priests at the Pontifical Lateran University.

The assumption that celibacy represents a warning signal for psychosexual imbalance is also wrong, said Lutz, who helped organize a Vatican conference on sex abuse in 2004. On the contrary, he said, it's the wider society that misunderstands sexuality and that promotes an "idolatry of the body" that has left millions of people unhappy.

Lutz said there was no question that celibacy "is certainly not something for weak characters." The commitment to celibacy usually falters in a priest when his spiritual life weakens, or when he becomes too focused on himself. For that reason, it may be a good idea to have priests live in communities when possible, he said.

Lutz said it was not true that married priests would be better able to pastorally guide married couples. For one thing, he said, there is a risk that a married priest will unconsciously and inevitably apply his own personal marriage experiences to the problems faced by others, whereas a celibate priest has a wider viewpoint.


Filed under: Religion
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. H. L. Chorney

    Not only do I believe that celibacy is related to sexual abuse of children, but if the church survives this issue, the next issue will probably be the sexual abuse of nuns and other women deeply involved in the church.

    March 17, 2010 at 12:11 am |

    Celibacy is a separate issue from sex abuse. I am a celibate Catholic and have no history or proclivity to sexually abuse abyone. I think that the media goes on a witch hunt and doesn't give equal time for Catholics to explain what celibacy is. It's more than abstaining from sex. Most sexual abusers came from homes where they were sexually abused. This has nothing to do wqith celibacy.

    March 17, 2010 at 12:04 am |
  3. Carolyn Owen-Towle

    It is a no-brainer that celebacy is linked to sexual abuse. Human beings are sexual beings. To deny a natural aspect of our humanity potentially leads to abuse. Why else are Catholic priests the single leading group of sexual abusers in the world?

    March 17, 2010 at 12:03 am |
  4. Barbara

    I am continuously tormented by this, I am a Roman Catholic. As one person commented, what would Jesus do? I know that he would not stand by and let children be tormented their entire life. Hopefully each one of these individuals who were sexually abused have God's grace with them. These priests should be jailed, just like any other pedophile. It makes me sick. It has nothing to do with boys and hormones, it has to do with sick priests who abuse children.

    March 17, 2010 at 12:03 am |
  5. Ken H

    When God created man he said that it is not good for man to be alone. He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth as man and wife. This was a commandment for all mankind to marry and fill the whole earth. Priests should be allowed to marry and have a family, The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to his eternal plan.

    March 16, 2010 at 11:52 pm |

    My impression is that the artillery is being aimed at the wrong target.
    I see the scholastic method adopted by the Church as the main responsible for these deviations of conduct.
    You cannot put a bunch of adolescents with hormones raging inside them together in dorms, and expect that abuses will not occur.
    Either a solitary and frightened boy will seek solace in the warm bed of another, or he will simply be abused by someone who has been abused long ago.
    And this child will likely to try to get even in the future, setting in motion the wheel.

    March 16, 2010 at 7:27 am |
  7. Leslie Sinclair

    Catholic priests should be allowed to marry. What if a priest falls in love with a woman and because of the church rules he cant marry her.
    Most of the Apostles were married. The old testament priests were married ,at least they were allowed to. St paul I think wasnt married. He chose not to. Celibacy is a rare gift only possessed by a few. Having a partner helps put to death those bad temptations. And if they are genuine christians they will really be kind.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:54 am |
  8. Sergio

    In my opinion celibacy does not offer a direct link to sex crimes. The Catholic Church has practiced celibacy for hundreds of years. As one of the viewers commented above, sex criminals tend not only to be priests but teachers, counselors, artists and so on. Many of these men in service to God do so because they found a calling, and do so in complete celibacy.
    With regards to tonights story, we must remember that the church did expel the priest from the archdiocese In other words, the priest featured on AC360 tonight is not a legitimate Roman Catholic priest.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:02 am |
  9. sandy

    I am trying to wrap my head around the statement that celibacy has no relation to pedophilia – apparently in the Catholic church it does. This has been going on for eons and the church just covers it up. They harbored war criminals in the second world war at the Vatican. They have abused alter boys for years. The vatican has jewels and gold strewn in its decor while their parishoners our outside begging. Please, shut this
    organization down – it is anything but religious. Their heirarchy walk around like pompous asses in their white robes. The pope's brother is suspected of child abuse. He dresses like a variation of the Klu Klux Klan. Not how I understand holy.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:11 am |
  10. Damali

    The Catholic Church cannot continue to ignore allegations of sexual abuse. Priests that abuse children are betraying their vows and betraying God. How can the church turn a blind eye to this? How do they sleep at night knowing childrens' lives are being ruined by these pedophiles, and in turn, the church.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:59 am |
  11. Sam

    What bothers me most is that the Catholic Church, an organization persisting on donations alone, is spending millions of dollars ensuring that the victims of sexual abuses are silenced. That is down right despicable.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:58 am |
  12. Juan

    Anderson, you asked today why the Catholic Church paid more than a million dollar to settle a sexual abuse case. My answer to it "Because they are Rich!" that is why...

    March 16, 2010 at 12:18 am |
  13. annette

    I am always struck with the question-why did the young boys wait so long before they speak out, telling the truth? I do hope I get some answer.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
  14. Josephine Perkins

    There is definitely something wrong with this priest. How in the world are going to call urself a priest and placing blame on everyone but himself. I mean who is this guy teaching and leading....whoever they are there all spiritualy blinded. May God have mercy on him and all the other false prophets and hipocritcal leaders playing with the word!

    March 15, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  15. joan

    I worked in a 'rectory' parish office in the 90's and rec'd 2 calls from men who had been sexual abused from priests. One of the men cried on the phone. Of course there is more to my story, but to summarize, in my perspective I believe the priest listed in your interview is guilty. He not only seems confused, but possible paranoid. One of the reason I am writing is because of his parishioners who may have blind faith. It is like anything in life you must have insight into what is truth. I have met many priests who are spiritual men, but I believe priests who abuse children have a mental illness. Is it really a celibacy issue?

    March 15, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
  16. JoAnn Gonzales

    I'am a catholic and I'am .very disturbed with what is going on in the church.It seemed ovious that the priest was lying.I live in a state where right now the catholic church is denying a young child to attend school, because there parents are gay.Where are the churches priorities,seems to me they need to get rid of the priest,and allow the children to go to school.Shame on the catholic religion.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  17. Caden

    The more things seem to change with the Catholic Church, the more it stays just the same. The Church is a corrupt, dysfunctional organization run by a bunch of men most of whom are homosexual while at the same time condemning homosexuality. Can anyone just please say hyprocrisy and stop playing games with the lives and souls of people and their children?

    March 15, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  18. mary191

    Anderson Cooper is to be respected for covering this story. The media need to make people more aware of this on going problem. I was raised a Catholic...... the church will always protect it's own self interest instead of protecting ANY person (child or adult).

    March 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  19. Shar

    I have been a catholic my whole life, and was taught by many wonderful, sisters and priests. My two best friends are priests and they both hate these kinds of stories, and wish the church would step out of the Dark Ages and remove these sick individuals! They care deeply about their parishes, and this kind of stuff angers them more than us. If Christ would turn over the tables in the Temple because of money changers, could you imagine what He would do about this?

    March 15, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  20. vicky

    I do not believe Father Chester. He was evasuve and thought that the problem was with everyone else but him.His parishioners should take a closer look at his interview and observe his behavior.It was evident to me he was trying to hide the truth. I do believe that some of the reports about abuse by priests were an attempt to gain monetarily. I do not believe it in this case.For this preist to think any of this is laughable and he has not done wrong, I hope he finds a good confessor. As for celibacy creating this problem, I do not think that has anything to do with it. It all boils down to holding power over another being as is the case with all sexual abusers be they priests or lay people in our society.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  21. John

    If the priest interviewed tonight is so sure of his innocence, why doesn't he volunteer to take a lie detector test? It was sickening.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  22. Brenda

    This just makes me SICK.
    Question: Do Priest become Pedophiles, or do Pedophiles become Priest?
    I can not understand why the Catholic church continues to cover this up.

    March 15, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
  23. Irene Froehlich

    That is so typical of the catholic church. The religion has been a safe haven for pedophiles and homosexuals. It is a patriarchal society that protects all the male members.

    March 15, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
  24. Harriet Smith

    Now, this is obvious! That priest is clearly in denial!

    March 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
  25. Debi Ferrier

    I absolutely believe that celibacy is a direct link to all this abuse. Celibacy is not normal – sex drive is normal. It's pretty easy to see why this happens. That is one SICK organization.

    March 15, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  26. Marilyn

    May I suggest the book – The Bishop'sMan by Linden MacIntyre – it speaks volumes about this issue and how the catholic church covered up lots of sexual abuse - in Nova Scotia Canada we are currently awaiting the trial of a bishop who has been indicted for child pornography – if you find an answer to your question tonight – God Bless You Anderson....

    March 15, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
  27. Vig

    Actually, I think the Pope should step down – the Catholic Church has become nothing more than a criminal organization. If this type of abuse were going on in any other organization, it would be shut down and the participants jailed. Priests have become predators and the Catholic Church as done everything to look the other way. Disgusting.

    March 15, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  28. mkbrink

    The Lutherans figured it out over 500 years ago, the Vatican is still working on figuring it out.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
  29. alice

    So my kid comes home from Catholic School and tells me that the Priest who teaches religion said that Gay is different from homosexual.

    Example; A gay person acts out his feelings and a homosexual does not.. meaning if u are homosexual its probably ok as long as you are not gay.... I was just shocked... i told the boy... don't worry u will be graduating soon and don't have to listen to this BS... I also said that the Preist might be " homosexual" and was trying to justify his own feelings. Aye Vay

    March 15, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  30. Moira

    I'm not sure that celibacy is necessarily the big link here. I think that people with those types of tendencies will put themselves into situations that put them around kids. Abusers are found in many places where marriage isn't an issue: they're teachers, scout leaders, daycare providers, entertainers, etc. The mistake made by the Catholic Church in the case of their sex offender problem was that they tried to cover it up, and continued to put individuals with these types of complaints against them into situations where they would be in contact with children.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  31. Annie Kate

    "there is a risk that a married priest will unconsciously and inevitably apply his own personal marriage experiences to the problems faced by others, whereas a celibate priest has a wider viewpoint."

    What a crock. The celibate priest has no earthly idea of the pressures or responsibility of marriage. He doesn't have a wider viewpoint – he has no viewpoint. I can't say I am surprised by the statement though; this has been the Catholic Church's position for decades; its one of the major items that is turning off its young people from the church. The church will cease to exist for laypeople before there is any change in this viewpoint. As a Catholic I find it depressing that the church cannot update its viewpoint on this as well as some other issues but it doesn't surprise me.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
  32. SophieLavoi

    I'm all for celibacy, on MY terms.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm |