A cardinal seen as a future candidate for the papacy has broken a Vatican taboo by raising the possibility that priestly celibacy is among the causes of the sex abuse scandal sweeping the Roman Catholic Church.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna and a protégé of Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in his archdiocese's magazine this week that the Church must make an "unflinching examination" of the causes of the scandal.
He said that these included "the issue of priests' training, as well as the question of what happened in the so-called sexual revolution of the generation of 1968.
"It also includes the question of priest celibacy and the question of personality development. It requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the Church and of society as a whole."
The cardinal's spokesman, Erich Leitenberger, later issued a "clarification" claiming that the cardinal was not "in any way seeking to question the Catholic Church's celibacy rule" after headlines in the German and Italian press such as "Schönborn says priestly abuse is the fault of celibacy" and "Celibacy must be reconsidered, Schönborn says."
The cardinal's office said that he had been misinterpreted. Some observers said that he had been obliged to issue his "clarification" under pressure from the Vatican.