“On the contrary, it is precisely the failure to remain celibate that gradually degrades the life of a priest, until he ceases to be an example, a gift, a spiritual guide for others,” he said.
“It has been amply demonstrated that celibacy, when faithfully observed, is of great value to their vocation and in helping the people of God,” added Bertone, who was in Barcelona to attend the beatification of a Catalan priest.
Pope Benedict this week accepted the resignation of two bishops implicated in the revelations of paedophile abuse by Catholic priests that have swept Europe and the Americas since November.
In Belgium Roger Vangheluwe, the first bishop directly implicated in the affair, resigned after admitting to abusing a minor several years ago.
Bishop James Moriarty, for his part, became the fourth bishop to resign since two major sex abuse scandals hit the Irish Catholic Church.
Revelations of large-scale paedophilia spanning decades have rocked the Catholic Church in countries including Ireland, Austria, the United States and the pope’s native Germany.
Senior clerics were accused of protecting guilty clergy by moving them to other parishes — where they sometimes offended again — instead of handing them over to civil authorities for prosecution.
One alleged victim of a priest accused of molesting up to 200 boys at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin sued the Vatican and the pope on Thursday in a bid to access secret files on investigations into sex abuse in the Church.