VATICAN CITY?A leading Vatican prelate Monday rejected any link between the requirement of celibacy for priests and the spate of pedophilia scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church.
"Celibacy has nothing to do with the sexual abuse of minors," Cardinal Walter Kasper said amid calls for the Church to rethink the tradition.
"Pedophilia has no connection with the very old tradition that prevents priests from marrying," the German cardinal said in an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa published Monday.
"All the experts agree that the vast majority of cases occur in families, not in the Church environment," said Kasper, who heads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Kasper's comments come amid questions within the Church over whether priestly celibacy may contribute to pedophilia.
"Celibacy should be rethought," Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former archbishop of Milan, told an Austrian daily on Sunday, echoing calls by two Austrian archbishops.
"The central issues of sexuality need to be put forward again with the current generations, with human sciences and with the teachings of the Bible," Martini said.
Vatican watcher Bruno Bartoloni said pedophilia "can reflect the frustration of those priests who are not at ease with being celibate" and that their psychological training could be insufficient.
Pope Benedict XVI on March 12 defended celibacy, saying it was a "sign of full devotion" and of an "entire commitment to the Lord".
"The value of sacred celibacy, which in the Latin Church is ... required for ordination (of priests), is held in great regard by Eastern Churches," he added.