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SECRET LOVERS IN PRIESTS' LIVES.

Several times a year in quiet warmly-lit rooms across Ireland, groups of women gather in the company of priests.

Most of the women are middle aged, middle class and respected figures in their towns and villages.

Some are volunteer helpers at the local church, some married, some single. But they all have at least one thing in common - they are having love affairs with priests.

They meet at night, travelling many miles to secret locations, fearful, nervous and watchful in case their relationships are found out. But heir talk quickly turns to the pain they share - of leading a double life with no hope of marrying the man they love.

Father Pat Buckley, a maverick priest based in Larne, Country Antrim, runs the Northern branch of Bethany, the group he set up for priests'' mistresses.

He says the number of Irish priests getting involved sexually with women parishioners is growing all the time and is leading to a crisis in the church.

Father Buckley revealed defiantly: "Priests are human, they are subject to the same temptations and desires as everybody else and the sooner the Church realises this the better.

"The hierachy demands celibacy but there are very few people on earth who are naturally celibate. "Sexual urge is a God-given urge and if we don't deal with it in a mature and healthy way then problems are going to rise."

Father Buckley says the Catholic Church in Ireland, reeling from a series of sex scandals, will go on lurching from crisis to crisis until bishops and cardinals wake up and ask the Pope to scrap the laws on celibacy.

"The last few years have been a disaster for the Church in Ireland," he says.

"We have had priests with mental problems . . . alcohol problems . . . and some guilty of child abuse.

"I am convinced that all these are the fruits of the Church's twisted approach to sex. The Canon laws should be changed now before more damage is done."

Father Buckley's forthright views may have secret support in the priesthood but are unlikely to impress the majority of the island's four million Catholics.

When it was learned that the respected Bishop of Galway, Dr Eamon Casey, had enjoyed a 16-year love affair with an American divorcee, Annie Murphy, fathering a son in the process, the public turned on him.

But, Father Buckley argues, there is nothing in the Catholic Church's rules to suggest that celibacy is a necessary condition of the priesthood.

Father Pat Buckley believes the crisis in vocation could prove the spur which prods the Church into action.

He predicts: "One day we will have women priests and married priests.

"The Church will go back to running the priesthood the way God intended."
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Article Details
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Author:Hanna, Conor
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 17, 1996
Words:454
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Next Article:FUGITIVE IS SHOT BY IRA DEATH TEAM IRA TEAM; Baby born in van on way to hospital.


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