In Brief

Priest celibacy should be voluntary, says child abuse report

A five-year inquiry into institutional child abuse in Australia has delivered its findings

An Australian royal commission examining institutional responses to child abuse has suggested that the Catholic Church’s insistence on celibacy among priests has contributed to sexual assaults on children.

The report also called for “religious ministers, out-of-home care workers, childcare workers, registered psychologists and school counsellors [to be] obliged by law to report sexual abuse”, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The five-year inquiry concluded earlier today with the delivery of a 21-volume report containing 400 recommendations for government and organisations about how to prevent abuse.

“Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions,” the report said. “We will never know the true number.”

Led by Justice Peter McClellan, the commission found that 61.8% of child abuse survivors reported that the abuse took place in institutions managed by the Catholic Church, and recommended to the Vatican that it should make celibacy for priests voluntary.

“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,” The Guardian reports.

Since the inquiry began in 2013, 2,559 allegations had been referred to police and 230 prosecutions for alleged child abuse have begun.

The Anglican Church received 1,115 complaints of abuse, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have been accused of covering up 1,000 alleged abusers.

Archbishop Denis Hart, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, issued an “unconditional” apology, saying: “This is a shameful past, in which a prevailing culture of secrecy and self-protection led to unnecessary suffering for many victims and their families.”

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