Prelate targets sexual abuse of minors

Archbishop Anthony Mancini cited priests' loneliness as a potential reason for sexual abuse.

Archbishop Anthony Mancini cited priests' loneliness as a potential reason for sexual abuse.

October 31, 2011

MONTREAL – Inadequate formation of priests, the Church's fear of human sexuality and the isolation of priests all contributed to the sexual abuse of minors in the Church, said Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax.

Mancini said yet another factor leading to abuse was the mistaken belief of many parishioners that priests are a stand-in for God.

No sooner had Mancini, a former auxiliary bishop of Montreal, taken up his post in the Maritimes in 2007, he found himself confronted by the criminal misconduct of a fellow prelate, Bishop Raymond Lahey. Lahey is now in jail after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography on his laptop computer.

"I inherited all of it, when I went to Halifax," Mancini said, "the good, the bad and the ugly."

The Church and its response to clerical sexual abuse came under scrutiny Oct. 14-15 at the Trauma and Transformation conference, sponsored by McGill University.

Mancini, one of 20 experts to address the conference, told delegates that the inadequacy of the Church to understand sexuality meant that many of its priests and bishops were ill-prepared to deal with their own sexuality and to manage it.

What priests find difficult and struggle with most, he said, is not sexuality but isolation, "the failure to experience the grace and gift of being an integral part of a community of faith. . . .

"Isolation is deadly, whetd\dit is generated by clericalism or by lack of a Christian community," he said. "A priest is not meant to be a priest alone and he can't be a priest alone."

Mancini said priests who find themselves alone and depressed may "seek out some kind of unacceptable compensation and relief, such as alcohol, gambling and the growing contemporary phenomenon of pornography."

"Pornography is watched in isolation, has the effect of becoming addictive, and creates a false sense of reality. It imprisons an individual in a world of sexual fantasies and illusions, compounding further the danger and the depth of isolation."


Mancini said the protocols and rules put in place in the wake of the crisis treat the symptoms and not the problem. He called for improved integrated seminary training.

Archbishop Anthony Mancini

In the past, he said, while seminaries were a place to grow in, they were not a place to grow up in. Priests must be better informed about sexuality, "not deformed."

Seminary programs, he said, did not deal with sexuality, and as a result of that, more than a few priests remained emotionally immature and perhaps arrested in their psychosexual development.

"Celibacy is not about not having sex," Mancini added. "Spiritual masters and recent popes have always presented celibacy as a gift of self, a call to self-transcendence.


"In order for celibacy to be such a gift, there must be a 'self' to give away. . . . It requires emotional maturity and, largely, the capacity to get over oneself!"

However, it is not possible if it is lived as an imposition, he said.

"The subject of sexuality requires more work, insight and better understanding so priestly ministry . . . can be harmonized with Catholic understanding."