.- Speaking about the current climate within the Catholic Church of Belgium to the Vaticanâs LâOsservatore Romano newspaper, Archbishop Andre-Mutien Joseph Leonard highlighted the importance of formation for the priesthood. Celibacy, he underlined, is not the cause of sexual abuses and greater focus needs to be put on priestly formation to avoid future tragedy.
The primate of the Belgian Church spoke to the Vaticanâs semi-official newspaper while in Rome for the Belgian bishopsâ âad Liminaâ visit to the Holy See.
In response to a question about whether the cases of sexual abuse that have come to light in the Church are due to faults in the process of forming priests, the archbishop said âinvestigating the causes is always difficult.â âHowever,â he added, âIâm convinced that it is not correct to trace certain deviant attitudes back to the celibacy of priests.â
Archbishop Leonard pointed out that no one calls marriage a âsource of mental imbalanceâ although the majority of cases of sexual abuse of minors take place in the home.
The personal development of the individual is the problem, he said, and itâs an additional reason to put more focus on the formation of priests, placing importance on the âaffective equilibriumâ of candidates.
Proposing specific actions to be taken to avoid such tragedies in the future, Archbishop Leonard said more attention must be given to potential priests during their time of discernment and in the first few years of formation. The Belgian Church intends âto reinforceâ the personnel that accompany seminarians âto understand their nature, personality and balance more deeply,â he added.
âBut, I repeat, celibacy is not a source of imbalance for the priest; rather itâs a source of grace.â
The Bishops of Belgium will all meet in audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday to conclude their âad Liminaâ visit to the Holy See.