Enforced celibacy and secrecy are the major factors in why child abuse is so ;prevalent; in the Catholic Church around the world, a major new report claims.
Examining the findings of inquiries, police records and church reports since 1985, the study pointed to the patriarchal nature of Catholic establishments that means abuse can go unchallenged.
Mandatory celibacy was and is 'the major precipitating risk factor for child sexual abuse', the report says, and Popes and bishops had fostered a culture of secrecy that allowed abuse to continue.
'The deep, dark history of clerical child sexual abuse has been found to exist in every corner of the Latin rite of the Catholic Church,' the report says. 'To attribute it solely to a series of personal failings of individual priests and religious insinuating that they were just a few "rotten apples" is simply not credible.'
The study by Professor Des Cahill and Dr Peter Wilkinson was released last week by RMIT University in Melbourne and offers a comprehensive and damning assessment of the reasons behind child sexual abuse in the Church.
It finds that although a small number of nuns had abused, the risk for children was much higher in institutions where male priests had minimal interaction with women.
'Their contact with women in teacher training institutions would have been carefully proscribed and then they were appointed to male-only schools where they were in charge of young boys and adolescents,' the report said.
'And they were living in all-male religious communities. They had to make do with a sacralised image of a sexless Virgin Mary. It was a recipe for a psycho-spiritual disaster.'
It states 'young and vulnerable Catholic children, especially boys, were in danger and at risk in the presence of psychosexually immature, psychosexually maldeveloped and sexually deprived and deeply frustrated male priests and male religious, particularly those who had not satisfactorily resolved their own sexual identity'.
It goes on: 'This was especially so if these priests and religious were confused or in denial about their homosexual orientation while training and operating in a profoundly homophobic Church environment.'
It comes after a recent study into child abuse specifically in the UK Catholic Church found reports incidents continue to rise despite a drastic overhaul of safeguarding.
Despite the central efforts to tackle abuse with 96 per cent of parishes now covered by a specialised safeguarding officers, a quarter of reported incidents last year were new cases, meaning ongoing attacks are still occurring, the report in May found.