Robyne Cuerel

Archbishop: Celibacy not the cause of Catholic abuses

BRISBANE'S Catholic Archbishop says the Church is a law unto itself and must change its culture but does not believe celibacy played a role in its shocking history of sexual abuse.

Appearing at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney yesterday, Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the Catholic Church needed to address issues that are "systemic and cultural".

He said he was not naive enough to think all priests remained celibate but did not believe celibacy caused people to abuse children sexually.

Despite his very senior role in the Catholic Church in Australia, Archbishop Coleridge said he did not believe he could question a priest about his sex life unless allegations had been made publicly against him.

He said it would be up to someone such as a spiritual director to ask those questions if a priest was not functioning effectively.

"I have no right to ask those questions or, if I do, to expect an answer," he said.

Archbishop Coleridge said the idea celibacy might be an aggravating factor was still "on the table".

The royal commission released data on Monday revealing 4444 people had made child sex abuse complaints to Australian Catholic authorities between 1980 and February, 2015.

There were 1880 alleged offenders - priests, lay people and brothers and sisters.

In a frank admission, Archbishop Coleridge said the Church's reticence for transparency was because it thought it was a law unto itself.

"I suspect it is the lingering effects of what was a deeply rooted culture," he said. "We do our own thing. We are, as it were, a law and a world, unto ourselves.

"I think we have made some advances in the area of transparency but clearly there's a great deal of work to be done."

Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge speaks outside the Cathedral of St Stephen on Good Friday, Mar. 25, 2016.
Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge speaks outside the Cathedral of St Stephen on Good Friday, Mar. 25, 2016. Alexandra Patrikios

Archbishop Coleridge said it would be "utterly irresponsible" for the Catholic Church not to change.

He said the election of Pope Francis and the royal commission had been catalysts for the changing mindset.

"We can't put up a sign saying 'business as usual'," he said.

Recalling the words of Pope Francis, Archbishop Coleridge said the Church owed victims of sexual abuse cultural change.

He said incorporating the Catholic Church could improve transparency by providing it with more structural accountability.

News Corp Australia

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