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Australian abuse inquiry's calls to end priests' celibacy rejected
Last Updated : 15 Dec 2017 02:52:04 PM IST
Representational image
Representational image

Leaders of the Catholic church in Australia on Friday dismissed calls from a landmark inquiry into child sexual abuse that the Vatican should make celibacy for priests voluntary and end the secrecy of confession.

Earlier on Friday, Australia's Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse delivered its 21-volume report to the government containing 400 recommendations and with 2,500 witness accounts along with more than 8,000 harrowing stories from survivors, reports the Guardian.


The report, which was released after five years of work, found the inadequacy of canon law contributed to the failure of the Catholic church to protect children and report or punish perpetrators within church institutions.


The commission urged the Australian Catholic bishops conference to ask the Vatican to reform canon law by removing provisions that "prevent, hinder or discourage compliance with mandatory reporting laws by bishops or religious superiors".


It also said the conference should urge the Vatican to rethink its celibacy rules. 


The commission found that while celibacy for clergy was not a direct cause of abuse, it elevated the risk when compulsorily celibate male clergy or religious figures had privileged access to children.


But the archbishop of the archdiocese of Melbourne, Denis Hart, responded by saying the seal of the confessional was "inviolable" and "can't be broken". 


He said if someone confessed to abusing children, he would encourage them to admit to their crimes outside the confessional so that it could be reported to police, the Guardian reported.


Almost 2,500 survivors told the commission about sexual abuse in an institution managed by the Catholic church, representing 61.8 per cent of all survivors who reported sexual abuse in a religious institution.


The final report added 189 recommendations to 220 that had already been made public, the BBC reported.


"Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions. We will never know the true number.


"Whatever the number, it is a national tragedy, perpetrated over generations within many of our most trusted institutions... It is not a case of a few 'rotten apples'. Society's major institutions have seriously failed," it added.


Religious ministers and school teachers were the most commonly reported perpetrators and the greatest number of alleged perpetrators and abused children were in Catholic institutions, the report said.


The royal commission, Australia's highest form of public inquiry, had been contacted by more than 15,000 people, including relatives and friends of abuse victims.


More than 8,000 victims told their stories, many for the first time, in private sessions with commissioners.


The inquiry also received more than 1,300 written accounts, and held 57 public hearings across the nation.




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