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Former Dominican head says celibates must own their sexuality

Visiting British Dominican Fr Timothy Radcliffe has blamed sex abuse by clergy and religious on denial of sexuality during the period of formation.

Speaking to ABC Radio National's Religion Report yesterday, he said that chastity is about getting out of entrapment in a world of fantasy that allows no room for God.

"Fundamental in our tradition is the liberation from fantasy, because sex often tends to go wrong and become unhealthy when you get trapped in a world of fantasy," he said. "Where we've had these scandals of sexual abuse, it's often I think because of a failure to help people to grow in that mature, equal relationship with other people."

He admitted that preparation for a life of chastity has been inadequate in the past.

"Somehow they felt that if you had a cold shower occasionally and you went for a run, 'it would be all right'," he said. "But that's not enough."

Fr Radcliffe, who is the former international leader of the Dominican priests and brothers, said that clergy "can't help the young unless they've pretty nakedly faced what goes on in their own hearts".

"And that a lot of maturity in sexuality is actually learning to see that the person you have in front of you is neither God nor a lump of meat, but a human being," he said.

He affirmed the value of celibacy, comparing the discipline required with the demands on an artist of a sportsperson.

"To play football beautifully, to learn that sort of freedom on the football pitch, that spontaneity, you've got to learn a discipline. If you want to be a musician, you want to be able to play the piano and discover a sort of spontaneity when you're playing, then you have to go through a discipline. It's not just how you learn control, it's how you learn freedom."

He said that the person who takes a vow of celibacy "has to learn with some discipline, how to be intimate in a way that's appropriate and beautiful", admitting that it's "not easy, but it's possible".

Timothy Radcliffe O.P. on celibacy (ABC Radio The Religion Report 27/10/04)

Survey: Priests in favour of changing celibacy rule (The Irish Times 27/10/04)
Survey: Priests in favour of changing celibacy rule ( 27/10/04)
Irish priests seek changes in Church (Catholic World News 27/10/04)
Bishops' Secretary confirms priests' survey on celibacy (CathNews 1/10/04)
Priests question vow of celibacy (The Age 1/10/04)
71% of Aussie Priests give obligatory celibacy the thumbs down (Online Catholics 29/9/04)
Survey of Australian priests' finds 71% question compulsory celibacy (CathNews 29/9/04)
71% of Aussie Priests give obligatory celibacy the thumbs down (Catholic World News 29/9/04)
Australian priests question celibacy rule (Catholic World News 29/9/04)
National Church Life Survey
US priests urge optional celibacy (CathNews 21/8/03)
Celibacy formation a major part of seminary programs today (Catholic News Service 12/3/04)
Priestly Celibacy, a Supernatural Sign (Zenit 6/9/03)
The growing cost of mandatory celibacy (National Catholic Reporter 17/10/03)
Optional Celibacy (Call to Action USA)

28 Oct 2004