A new report has suggested that the Catholic Church's policy of mandatory celibacy is one of the major factors that is contributing to child sex abuse.
The study, authored by Professor Desmond Cahill and Dr. Peter Wilkinson, claimed that the patriarchal nature of Catholic institutions is one of the reasons why abuse often goes and challenged, noting that the risk of offending was much higher in institutions where priests had minimal contact with women.
"Their contact with women in teacher training institutions would have been carefully proscribed and then they were appointed to male-only schools where they were in charge of young boys and adolescents," the 384-page document stated, as reported by The Christian Post.
"And they were living in all-male religious communities. They had to make do with a sacralised image of a sexless Virgin Mary. It was a recipe for a psycho-spiritual disaster," it continued.
The authors warned that children are "at risk" at more than 9,000 Catholic-run orphanages around the developing world.
The report, titled "Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: An Interpretive Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry Reports," was released last week by the RMIT University in Melbourne amid debates about whether priests in Australia should be required to break the sanctity of confession to expose child abuse.
Last month, Australia's child sex abuse royal commission recommended that priests who refuse to report child sexual abuse to the authorities because they heard it during a confession should face criminal charges.
The proposal was opposed by the archbishop of the archdiocese of Melbourne, Denis Hart, who said that he would risk going to jail rather than report allegations of child sexual abuse raised during confession.
Cahill, a former Catholic priest who resigned from the ministry to marry, stated in his report that Pope Pius X's 1910 mandate to lower the age at which children make their first confession to seven years indirectly contributed to putting more children at risk of abuse. He further noted that the Church, on several occasions, had allowed the seal of confession to be broken.
He believes that a priest had an obligation to report abuse if they heard about it from a child during confession. He said that doing so would not break the sanctity of confession because the child had not sinned, and reporting it to the authorities would not reveal any sin of the child.
If the priest hears about the abuse from a perpetrator during confession, Cahill said that it would be practical to tell the perpetrator that they would not receive forgiveness until they allowed the priest to tell the police, or confessed to the authorities of the crime themselves.
Cahill and Wilkinson formed their conclusions after examining reports from royal commissions, academic studies, police reports and church reports from around the world since 1985. The report estimated that about seven percent of priests had committed sexual abuse against children between about 1950 and 2000.