Priests think abuse 'doesn't break celibacy': ex-bishop

Posted at 04/29/2010 5:33 PM | Updated as of 04/29/2010 6:02 PM

SYDNEY - Some paedophile priests believe molesting children does not breach their vow of celibacy, a retired Australian Catholic bishop said in a magazine interview.

Geoffrey Robinson, former auxiliary bishop of Sydney, told The Australian Women's Weekly he had made the observation during years of work with victims of child abuse within the church.

"We've met it often enough to see it as a factor. That's what the vow of celibacy refers to, being married. If it's not an adult woman, then somehow they're not breaking their vow," the 72-year-old said.

Robinson, who was abused as a child, although not by a priest, has previously criticised the handling of paedophilia cases by the church, which is facing a growing crisis over the issue.

In his 2007 book, "Confronting Power and Sex In The Catholic Church," he also hit out at compulsory celibacy, which the Vatican's number two last week said was a "positive tradition" but "not untouchable."

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has also insisted celibacy was not contributing to the child sexual abuse revelations rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

During his visit to Sydney in July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI apologised to victims of child abuse by priests in Australia after a rash of cases came to light in recent years.