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Celibacy 'a gift' says Vatican

Clergy 'minister' speaks out amid abuse scandals

11 March, 15:34
Celibacy 'a gift' says Vatican (ANSA) - Vatican City, March 11 - Priestly celibacy is a gift, the Vatican's 'minister' for the clergy said Thursday after an Austrian archbishop appeared to suggest the Church should look at the issue in light of recent sex abuse scandals.

"Priestly celibacy is a gift from the Holy Spirit which...must be lived with fullness and joy," said Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, the head of a sort of ministry which regulates clerical life.

"Christ chooses some people" to be priests and practise celibacy which is part of a "unique and privileged relationship with God," said Hummes, who in 2006 caused a brief flap when he said celibacy was "not a dogma".

Another high-ranking cleric, Caritas International chief Oscar Rodriguez Maradiga, said: "I don't understand how there can be a link" between celibacy and child sex abuse.

Like other clerics, he stressed that children were abused outside the Church but the media appeared to focus more strongly on scandals involving priests.

On Wednesday Vienna Archbishop Christoph Schoenborn called for an "unflinching" examination of the possible roots of the scandals, saying "it also includes the issue of priestly celibacy".

But Vienna archdiocese spokesman Erich Leitenberger told Catholic news agency Sir Thursday that the cardinal "did not call into question celibacy in any way".

In Germany, the Archbishop of Regensburg, Gerhard Mueller, described the notion of celibacy being "the cause" of child sex abuse as "nonsense".

Germany has launched a scheme to root out and prevent Church child sex abuse while the Church in the Netherlands on Wednesday opened a probe into how recent cases could have occurred.

Pope Benedict XVI has yet to speak out on the recent German scandal, which is said to involve dozens of school cases and a couple of ex-choristers at the famous Regensburg boys choir, where the pope's brother Georg Ratzinger was choirmaster from 1964 to 1994.

Ratzinger this week said he knew nothing of the cases and apologised to the victims.

Scandals have also swept the Irish Church and a number of Irish bishops have resigned.

Benedict said Thursday that priests must live their vocations "in a high way" to give examples for the faithful to follow".

An association of Italian former priests who have married said Thursday Schoenborn was right in allegedly raising the celibacy issue.

Benedict has promised a new strategy to make child sex abuse never happens again, listing the eradication of this "hateful crime" as one of the Church's top priorities.

photo: Cardinal Hummes

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