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Priests' minder says all priests suffering from abuse stigma

The new spiritual "minder" for Australia's Catholic clergy says it's a tough time to be a priest, a bishop or a deacon and he says many clergy are angry and saddened by the current child sex abuse controversy facing the church.

"Certainly a cloud hangs over all clergy in a way that it didn't a generation ago," Fr Peter Brock told The Southern Cross. "It's more difficult than it's been and obviously we're ageing and we're fewer but the respect for clergy can't be taken for granted any more."

Fr Brock is the newly appointed executive officer of the National Commission for Clergy Life and Ministry which supports clergy in their intellectual development, health, morale and spiritual care.

"Occasionally you hear anecdotes of priests who have had harsh things said to them in a supermarket or on the street with people taking a pot shot at them," he said.

Fr Brock said a minority of aberrant priests had contributed to the perceived weakening of the clergy's moral authority but he strongly believed that greater accountability of clergy was a good thing.

He feels celibacy is not to blame for the current controversy but rather how candidates for the priesthood "got through to ordination". This was an issue faced "much more squarely" today by bishops and seminaries, he said.

"Clergy have to be accountable and part of the problem was precisely the way clergy were on a pedestal and tried to stay on a pedestal," he said.

National Commission for Clergy Life and Ministry

Southern Cross

5 Jun 2002