The comments of three cardinals on the Church's discipline of having celibate priests have been featured widely in the Italian news media in the last 24 hours. Cardinal Walter Kasper, who works at the Vatican, said that tying sexual abuse to celibacy "is a true abuse of the abuses."
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told Italy's La Stampa newspaper in an interview published Monday that "celibacy has nothing to do with the sexual abuses of the clergy against minors."
He underlined that according to the studies of experts, "the very great majority of cases of abuse occur in families and not in ecclesiastic environments."
He added that to call celibacy into question "is a true abuse of the abuses." It continues to conserve its meaning, so there is no need to "take another look at the state of things," especially not at this point in time in a climate "poisoned by the scandals," Cardinal Kasper said.
Cardinal Kasper's views have been contrasted with those of a second prelate in the news across Europe today. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, archbishop emeritus of Milan, made a comment in a letter printed in Sunday's edition of the German paper Die Presse. He wrote, "ways out of the crisis after the abuse cases" must be sought out. In his view, the Church needs to "rethink the obligation of celibacy as the lifestyle of the priest."
In the article, Cardinal Martini also writes that only through open discussion of the "questions of sexuality" can the Church "reconquer the trust" of the people, especially of the "young generations."
A third prelate, Cardinal Severino Poletto, Archbishop of Turin, spoke to journalists on the same issue on Monday. The archbishop said that he is against revising the Church norms on celibacy.
Cardinal Poletto echoed remarks that Pope Benedict has used so often: "it is a gift that God wanted to give to the Church."
He added that in dividing his time between his family and his ministry, the priest would "end up being a civil servant and no longer a consecrated priest at the service of the Church 24 hours a day."
Cardinal Poletto also recalled a statement from the Italian neuro-psychiatrist Dr. Vittorino Andreoli who said, "let's stop putting pedophilia in relation with celibacy: it doesn't enter into it."