Church is 'holed beneath waterline', says bishop
THE Roman Catholic Church is "holed beneath the waterline" and may take generations to recover from the sex-abuse scandals, according to the first English bishop to speak out on the crisis.
The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, the Right Rev Kieran Conry, refuted accusations of media bias against the Catholic Church and said the problem of paedophile priests dominating headlines in Ireland, the UK and across Europe was of the church's own making.
"The Roman Catholic Church sets itself up to be the great moral authority. When it does fail its own rigid standards, it deserves to be attacked and criticised," he said.
Bishop Conry denied that there was a link between celibacy and child abuse but admitted that priests were suffering because of loneliness.
"Very often, clergy sublimate that into alcohol and other dependencies," he said. However, the bishop said he would never call for an end to priestly celibacy and he did not believe that ending it would ease the shortage of priests.
Bishop Conry is the first Catholic bishop in England and Wales to break ranks on the issue that has plunged the church into crisis.
He said the problems could not be covered up.
"It is reality, you can't deny it and it's going to damage the relationship between many individuals and their church in the way it has damaged the individuals who are the victims."
He believed the current problems had not been exaggerated.
"I think the number of cases will grow. We can't pretend it is something we can ignore or dismiss.
"The church is one of the great moral champions in terms of its own rigid moral codes. When it fails, it deserves to get hit."
Asked whether the church could recover, Bishop Conry said: "It probably can. It depends on how it deals with it."
In Britain, the issue was dealt with "fairly effectively" and strict guidelines were now in place. But in other parts of the world, such as Ireland, he said, it had done "lasting" damage.