Belfast Telegraph

Priest challenges Vatican on celibacy

By Sarah MacDonald

A priest threatened with excommunication has called on the Catholic Church to openly debate whether clerical celibacy has contributed to the number of clerics who abused children.

Fr Tony Flannery – a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests – said the lonely single lives that priests lead result in an "inevitable" struggle over sexuality.

He made his comments ahead of the launch on Thursday of his new book, A Question of Conscience. It is the first public account by a censured priest of how the Vatican deals with dissent.

"The Catholic Church in Ireland seems to believe that it has dealt with the problems of clerical sexual abuse by putting structures in place to protect children," said the Redemptorist priest (66).

But he also warned: "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."

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