Study shows most priests want end of celibacy

A majority of Austrian Catholic priests want celibacy to be abolished, a survey has revealed.Researchers from Kepler University in the Upper Austrian city of Linz said today (Weds) 59 per cent of the clergy they spoke to said they backed the idea of putting an end to the ruling. Study leaders said they interviewed 406 Catholic priests across Austria last autumn.Eisenstadt Bishop Paul Iby recently hit the headlines as he admitted concern about mandatory celibacy for Roman Catholic priests. His announcement was followed by Vienna Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn declaring that he shared Iby’s point of view.The Catholic Church’s public image has suffered dramatically after hundreds of people got in touch with help lines and victims’ commissions to report violent and sexual abuse by the clergy.Pollsters Integral recently found 69 per cent of Austrians thought the Church was lacking in credibility in its dealing with the revelations.Viennese public opinion agency Karmasin said 57 per cent of the 500-odd Austrians they interviewed were of the opinion Pope Benedict XVI should resign amid the wave of alleged sex abuse incidents across Europe were there a rule that enabled him to do so.Official figures show that 30,004 people left the Church in the first three months of this year, up by 42 per cent compared to the same time span of 2009 when more people than ever cancelled their membership.These developments mean that up to 80,000 Austrians are expected to leave the Church throughout 2010 after last year’s record of 53,216 people left the Church.