The worst sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is probably over in Australia. But the crisis is likely to hit churches in Asia, Africa and parts of Europe within the next decade.
It was revealed in a report titled Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church made by RMIT Australia university. This is the first report to summarize the findings of 26 special commissions, police investigations, judicial examinations, government investigations, church research, and academic research from around the world since 1985.
The report warns of the worst potential abuse of children and adolescents living in 9,600 church-run orphanages, including 2,600 in India and 1,600 in Italy.
“Sexual abuse of children has reached its peak and has declined since the late 70s and early 80s and is due to be revealed to the public arena,” said Professor Des Cahill, one of the authors of the report.
“But I think in developing countries and in some European countries, there has not been an event that will raise this issue to the public sphere, I am especially thinking about countries in Asia and Africa,” he said.
“It may come out on its own, after all this is uncovered, and return to 30, 40 years … if the underlying problem is not addressed,” he explained.
“I have not seen any signal at the Vatican level, even here in Australia, for the bishops to answer why this happened and why they – the bishops – reacted so badly,” he explained.
By examining reports from Australia, Ireland, the United States, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, Professor Cahill and his colleague theologian Peter Wilkinson, found that one in 15 priests, or about 7 percent, allegedly harassed children and adolescents between 1950 and 2000.
They say even today children are at risk of being in educational and welfare institutions when they can be accessed by immature and / or sexually weak celibacy, including priests and religious figures.
However, Professor Cahill, who advises the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, believes that the risks to children in Australian Catholic schools are now very low. This is mainly due to greater vigilance of parents, teachers and school officials.
He says most Catholic principals are married men and women, and are very aware of the risks to children.
The decision of the Catholic Church in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada to abolish large orphanages and move the orphanage to family care has also substantially reduced the risk of harassment.
Controversially, however, the report warns that Australian confidence in overseas-trained priests – up to 40 percent in some dioceses – can be risky, as foreign bishops can eliminate abused priests abroad.
“Does the phenomenon of child sexual abuse by priests and religious figures tend to reappear and increase in the short or long term?” the report asked.
“The answer is unclear: this is possible, although there is the most rigorous examination that a priest or religious figure might be sent back to Australia, in the United States, not a few foreign priests, especially from the Philippines and India, who have been indicted and convicted.”
The lack of pastoral candidates for priesthood in many Western countries in the past has also caused bishops to ordain people despite warnings from seminary principals and training that they are ineligible.
These include “immature psychosexuals, psychosexual and sexually abused and extremely frustrated male priests, especially those who do not solve their own sexual identity problems”.
Professors Cahill and Dr. Wilkinson do not blame the crisis for abuse entirely on celibacy. But their reports noted a low level of abuse in the Eastern Catholic Church – especially Maronite, Ukrainian, Melkite and Chaldean Churches – where pastors were allowed to marry and father.
Professor Cahill himself is a former Catholic priest who resigned to get married and started an academic career that is now 40 years old.
He rejected the claims often made by conservative churches, that the liberal reform of the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s had loosened the morals of priests.
“Most abuse occurred before the Second Vatican Council, during the 1950s and into the 60s,” he said.
“And the majority of priests who do so have been ordained before the Second Vatican Council or are advancing in their studies, I think we need to be suspicious of the explanation,” he added.