The desire to have sex with children is not born of sexual frustration, says Dr Marcella McCarthy. The problem is one of institutional self-protection, says Colin Armstrong. There is one simple practical step the Vatican could take, says Stephen Barber
Letters Sun 24 Feb 2019
Jane Harding (Letters, 21 February) may well be right in thinking that the principle of clerical celibacy should be re-examined. However, she makes a serious mistake in saying that were this done “some abuse might be avoided”. Let us clearly see abusers for what they are. The desire to have sex with children is not born of sexual frustration, and to imply this fails to recognise the reasons why abusers might become priests.
The Catholic church, like other organisations such as schools, sports clubs and the BBC, has proved attractive to paedophiles because it has enabled them to have contact with children in a way that avoids suspicion as to their real motives, and allows them to avoid detection. The church, in common with these other organisations, now has a serious duty to secure its safeguarding practice so as to avoid this ever happening again.
Protecting children against paedophiles is a complex process. To consider that abolishing clerical celibacy would be a sensible first step for the church shows a dangerous lack of understanding of this problem, as all the many children abused by married laymen can testify.
Dr Marcella McCarthy
Catherine Pepinster (The moment of truth on abuse has arrived for Pope Francis, 21 February) rejects the idea that celibacy in the Catholic priesthood is responsible for grooming and abuse, noting that the paedophiles Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were not celibates. She then adds that the culture of celibacy could well lead to abuse not being reported.
But abuse has not been reported in other, non-celibate, cultures including non-Catholic schools, the media, the film industry, the Church of England. The problem is one of institutional self-protection. Institutions do not like to admit their failures. The difficulties with Catholicism and abuse are only too clear, both to those within and those outside the church; but let’s not pretend that its problems are peculiar to it.
One practical step the Vatican could take to deal constructively with the sexual abuse scandal (Pope’s plan to tackle longstanding scandal inadequate, say survivors, 22 February) is to instruct its representatives to cooperate with the civil authorities in public inquiries. The Church of England has cooperated with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. The papal nuncio in England has refused cooperation and withheld papers. If he did not hold diplomatic immunity, he could be charged with a criminal offence for this. What is the Vatican going to do about it?
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