After media outlets misinterpreted an article by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn to say that he is questioning the Church's rule of priestly celibacy, several high ranking churchmen have spoken out in praise of celibacy as a gift. They also dismissed the idea that celibacy is connected to pedophilia.
Greeting participants and introducing the sessions for the international theological conference taking place at the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome on Thursday, Cardinal Claudio Hummes called the celibacy of priests "a gift of the Holy Spirit." Other cardinals have also weighed in on the role of celibacy in recent days.
"Priestly celibacy is a gift of the Holy Spirit that asks to be understood and lived with fullness of meaning and joy, in total rapport with the Lord," said Cardinal Hummes, the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, according to ASCA news of Italy.
"This unique and privileged relationship with God makes the priest the true witness of a singular spiritual paternity ..." continued Cardinal Hummes.
He went on to say that "the Church, insofar as the mystical body of Christ, sees all faithful associated by the gift of being a priestly people, but at the same time we know that Christ chooses some (who) are priests that continue the mission for him."
The question of celibacy and its possible role in recent cases of sexual abuses against minors has been in European headlines over the last two months.
According to an ANSA report on Thursday, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas International, said, "I don't understand how there can be a link between celibacy and child sex abuse," and noted that the media frenzy only focused on abuse cases involving priests.
Bishop Gerhard Muller of Regensburg, Germany, who is now dealing with sex abuse cases in his diocese, said it was "nonsense" to associate pedophilia with celibacy.
The comments by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna which sparked speculation that he supported a reconsideration of the discipline of celibacy were made in an article he wrote for the diocesan magazine “Thema Kirche.”
In the article, Cardinal Schönborn called for an "unflinching examination" of possible reasons for pedophilia, and said that this includes the issues of training priests "as well as the question of what happened in the so-called sexual revolution.”
"It also includes the issue of priest celibacy and the issue of personality development. It requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the church and of society as a whole."
His comments were clarified by diocesan spokesman after headlines in international media touting his support for an end to celibacy were published. The spokesman said that Cardinal Schönborn was not questioning the Church's position on celibacy "in any way."