Child sex abuse royal commission: Archbishop says he has ‘no right’ to ask priests about sexual activity

Share

Archbishop Coleridge says he cannot expect priests to answer questions about their sexual activity.

By Michelle Brown and Paige Cockburn

One of Australia’s most senior Catholics, Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, says he does not know how many priests break their vows of celibacy, and does not think it is appropriate to question them.

Appearing at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Archbishop Coleridge said he had never had a sense of “being shackled” by his vow of celibacy but could not speak about the experiences of others.

Commissioner Peter McLellan intervened when Archbishop Coleridge said he could not say whether at any one time 50 per cent of clergy might be breaking their vows.

“It might be said Archbishop that given that you’re the leader of one of the most significant diocese in Australia that these are questions you should know about?” Commissioner McLellan said.

The Archbishop responded by explaining he could not possibly know the sexual behaviour of clergy who he works with and has no right to ask.

“I have no right to go to a priest who is not an employee of mine and say ‘excuse me, are you in a sexual relationship?'” he said.

“I have no right to ask those questions, or if I do, to expect an answer.”

Archbishop Coleridge also defended celibacy and said he did not think it was a causative factor to the abuse but the “question whether it was a major aggravating factor is on the table”.

He also said it was possible to live without sexual activity as “it’s not like sleep or food” and it did not necessarily lead to loneliness and isolation.

Commissioner McLellan said it needed to be determined whether a person was functioning effectively as previous abusive priests had been “people who in many cases are not functioning well”.

“When you find a problem with the way someone is functioning, the question maybe should be asked: ‘What is their personal life really all about?'”

Archbishop Coleridge said that was a question for someone providing professional supervision to ask rather than a Bishop to which Commissioner McLellan responded: “Well, again, those outside the church might say that reflects a management failure in the church’s structure.”

The Archbishop later said he believed Catholic bishops would probably tell police if a priest confessed to a sexual crime against children today.

“I tend to think that other bishops these days — in the light of what we are learning — would say to the priest ‘what you have confessed you understand is criminal behaviour and therefore the civil authorities must be notified’.”

Female leadership ‘needed in the church’

The Archbishop also said there was a need for more women to be making executive decisions at the top of the Catholic Church in Australia.

“If the Catholic Church says it cannot ordain women we are correspondingly obliged to explore ways in which women can exercise genuine responsibility in the decision-making processes at the highest level,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

Catholics for Renewal president Mr Peter Johnstone said he believed one could argue women would have spoken up about allegations of abuse earlier.

“When you exclude the people who have had experience in bringing up children…you are not going to get it right,” he said.

Today is day three of a three-week public hearing which will focus on the extent of child sexual abuse over almost seven decades and what church leaders are doing to protect children.

Last week, Archbishop Coleridge emailed a video message to tens of thousands of Catholic school parents expressing his concern about the impact of the statistics relating to reported abuse within the church.

“My sincere hope is that all the blood, sweat and tears will produce justice and healing and ensure that the future is much safer for the young than the past has been,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Leave a Reply