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BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour - 30/05/14 at 10:00am

Earlier this month, 26 women wrote to Pope Francis, asking him to make priestly celibacy in the Catholic Church optional. When the Pope was asked about the issue earlier this week, he said that while he sees celibacy as “a gift to the church”, he feels that “the door is always open” to change. According to Advent, the support group for men and women and their partners who have left the active ministry, in the last 50 years some 10,000 men in England and Wales have left the priesthood in order to marry. So could celibacy ever be optional in the Catholic Church? Jenni is joined by Alex Walker, who left the priesthood to marry 25 years ago and now runs Advent, and Madeleine Teahan, Associate Editor of the Catholic Herald.

Women who love priests

A Woman's Hour Programme first broadcast on 4th September 2003




In 1993, a young Roman Catholic priest, Father Sean Seddon, killed himself. He had fallen in love with a woman, Jan Curry, and could not reconcile his love and his desire to marry her with his calling to the priesthood which demands celibacy.

Jan Curry spoke to Jenni and she explained how their relationship and how she's campaigned for the Roman Catholic Church to lift its ban on the marriage of priests.
But apart from the admittance of those married Anglican Clergy who left their own Church in protest at the ordination of women to join the Roman Catholic priesthood, there has been no shift in policy.
Father Frances Marsden ministers to the parish of St Joseph's in Adlington near Manchester and is a columnist for the Catholic Times and Jan Walker is married to the chairman of the Advent Group, an orgnaisation which supports Catholic priests who have married. Her husband Alex was a priest. They join Jenni to discuss.

Priests’ lovers urge Francis to re-think mandatory celibacy

A group of Italian woman who are in love with Catholic priests have appealed to Pope Francis to re-examine the rules on priestly celibacy. The 26 women, who signed with only their Christian names, wrote to the Pope saying it was hypocritical for priests to live a “secret life”.

Read more: Priests’ lovers urge Francis to re-think mandatory celibacy

In Confidence

12 August 2010

Catherine Deveney meets Adrianna Alsworth who, upon her husband's death, began a secret affair with a priest which resulted in her giving birth to two of his children. Adrianna set up a support group, Sonflowers, for women who have children fathered by supposedly celibate Catholic priests.

Roman Catholic bishops from England and Wales call for Church to allow priests to marry

Roman Catholic bishops have called for the Church to take the historic step of allowing priests to be married amid growing signs of liberal reform under Pope Francis.

The controversial issue is set to be raised at the next Bishops’ Conference after three bishops in England and Wales spoke out in favour of relaxing the centuries-old ban. Their comments follow signals from the Pontiff recently that he could be open to change on the issue and criticism of Britain’s most senior Catholic leaders for refusing to release the findings of a survey of their views on sexual ethics.

Married Anglican clergy have been allowed to convert to Catholicism under a special decree by Pope Benedict XVI, which saw the first ordinations take place in 2011.Supporters of a change say their arrival has been welcomed by parishioners and that relaxing the rules on celibacy could help meet the shortfall on clergy as well as providing a valuable pastoral insight into family life.

Speaking to The Tablet, the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham, the Bishop of Menevia (Cardiff), Tom Burns and the outgoing Bishop of Brentwood, Thomas McMahon, all voiced their support for change.

Bishop McMahon, who has a number of married ex-Anglicans in his diocese, is a strong advocate of celibacy but he described his experience of married priests as “a very good one indeed”.

He said: “I think people in those parishes where they [married priests] have been placed have taken to them very well indeed. People look to their priest as a man of God, to lead them to God.

“If he is a real pastor at their service then it is rather secondary as to whether he is married or not.

”A spokesman for Bishop Cunningham said: “He [the bishop] hopes that the Holy Father will extend the present possibilities of ordaining viri probati (married men of proven character)to the priesthood… He feels that such a move would enable the Church to make greater use of the many gifts which married men could bring to ordained ministry and it would certainly alleviate some of the difficulties that result from the shortage of priests.” He is expected to repeat his call at the next Bishops’ Conference.

Bishop Burns said that extending those eligible to serve would send a powerful message on the importance of the family. “These married men would bring a wider experience andunderstanding to priestly ministry.


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