Australia's Catholic Church 'should end celibacy' among clergy, inquiry says

Royal Commission on Child Abuse in Australia found serious problems with tens of thousands of incidents

An Australian Royal Commission into child abuse has found an overwhelming amount happened in faith-based institutions.

Archbishop Denis Hart, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said the report "would have a significant impact on the way the Catholic Church and others operate in Australia".

The inquiry heard previously that the Australian Catholic Church had paid A$276 million ($212 million) in compensation to thousands of child abuse victims since 1980. However, it concluded that the greatest number of alleged abuse perpetrators were found in Catholic institutions. Between 1950 and 2010, the commission alleges that 7 percent of Catholic priests in the country abused children.

Although finding that celibacy was not a direct cause of child sexual abuse by the clergy, it was a contributing factor, the panel said.

- A requirement that candidates for religious ministry undergo external psychological testing. "In many cases those failings have been exacerbated by a manifestly inadequate response to the abused person". One is created to require mandatory reporting, including allegations disclosed in the church's confessional.

"We heard in private sessions from children as young as seven years of age who had been recently abused", he said last month. "Whatever the number, it is a national tragedy, perpetrated over generations within many of our most trusted institutions".

Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation.

"The failure to understand that the sexual abuse of a child was a crime with profound impacts for the victim, and not a mere moral failure capable of correction by contrition and penance...is nearly incomprehensible".

There are recommendations created to better protect children, especially a number of recommendations directed at the Roman Catholic Church.

But he hinted there was unlikely to be any changes when it comes to confession, saying: "The seal of the confessional, or the relationship with God that's carried through the priest and with the person, is inviolable. It can't be broken", Hart told reporters. This has some in the Catholic Church already expressing concern that a Priest who disclosed issued told to him in confession would lead to that Priest being excommunicated from the Church.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, said in a statement that he was "appalled by the sinful and criminal activity of some clergy, religious and lay church-workers (and) ashamed of the failure to respond by some church leaders". He handles the Catholic Church's sex abuse claims.

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis's former finance minister, gave evidence via video link from the Vatican about his time as a priest and bishop in Australia. Pell has denied the allegations.

"Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions".

The report reads: "We conclude that there is an elevated risk of child sex abuse where compulsorily celibate male clergy or religious have privileged access to children in certain types of Catholic institutions, including schools, residential institutions and parishes".

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