Celibacy – not a direct cause of sexual abuse

celibacy - sexual abuse

Celibacy is not a direct cause of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

The comments come from Hans Zollner SJ, a distinguished psychologist with a doctorate in theology.

He made the comments in an interview with Infovaticana.

“Celibacy is not a direct cause of abuse; what can become a risk factor is a ministry poorly lived and not fully accepted,” says Zollner.

He says it is a misconception to think that abolishing celibacy would put an end to abuse in the Church.

Zollner, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also serves as the director of the Institute of Anthropology at Rome’s Gregorian University.

“All scientific reports, including those commissioned by non-Church institutions, conclude that celibacy in itself does not lead to abuse.

“Therefore it is wrong to say that with the abolition of celibacy, there would no longer be cases of abuse in the Catholic Church” he emphasised.

He said the core issue is an abuse of power.

Zollner places the focus on the celibate’s leaders, the demands of the apostolate and an individual’s inner life balance.

“If a priest lacks balance in human, spiritual and professional aspects, that inner void and unfulfilled desires can lead him to commit abuse” he explained.

The psychologist also dismissed the idea that there is a simple, one-to-one relationship between homosexuality and abuse.

“Human behaviour is complex and many male child molesters do not identify solely as homosexual” he said.

He referred to the 2011 U.S. John Jay Report which categorises such individuals as ‘occasional abusers’ and notes that instances of abuse against girls have risen with the advent of co-ed schools and an increase in female altar servers.

On the subject of the profile of abusers within the Church, Zollner identified four recurring psychological patterns: the narcissistic abuser, the obsessive, the insecure, and the true pedophile – as defined in psychiatric terms.

Commenting on the seminary training of priests, Zollner highlights the critical role of seminary formation and education.

“It’s essential that seminarians not only acquire knowledge but also life skills.

“They need to be fully prepared to lead a balanced life and to excel in their future ministries,” he said.

Zollner says that victims and survivors need a support network comprised of empathetic listeners and professionals from various fields.

“Those who have suffered should seek justice and surround themselves with people who can genuinely assist them in healing,” he recommended.


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