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Vatican would rather defend celibacy & lose good priests like Fr McKenna; Renegade bishop backs cleric who left the Catholic Church in name of love.

Byline: JONNY STONES

WHEN Father Sean McKenna left 25 years of priesthood last weekend the sacrifices he made as a clergyman were also laid bare.

The brave priest's announcement he could take no more celibacy was met with numerous standing ovations from his flock.

His deep love for a divorced mother-of-two was recognised and blessed by his congregation.

But their rapturous applause was only half the indictment the priest needed to continue his long service to the Church.

Rome remained silent despite hearing the churchgoers of Holy Family parish in Derry loud and clear.

Without the approval of the Vatican, Fr McKenna could no longer minister to his flock without losing his bond with nurse Elaine Curran.

Without Rome's approval Fr McKenna would remain condemned to the lonely life of a celibate Roman Catholic priest.

The uncomfortable situation has prompted other members of the cloth to speak out in reaction to Fr McKenna's contentious decision.

One outspoken Bishop lambasted the 51-year-old's predicament as "the inevitable outcome of imposing a crazy regime" on men.

That regime seemed all the more hypocritical after hundreds of married Anglican vicars were recently welcomed into the priesthood.

Outspoken renegade Bishop Pat Buckley said: "A conservative figure would be that 2,000 priests in Ireland are sexually active with women and an equal number are sexually active with men.

SEXUALLY ACTIVE "The Church hierarchy would have preferred Fr McKenna to have kept the relationship under wraps and continued with business as usual. But that culture was obviously no good for Fr McKenna.

"The Catholic Church has already accepted 450 married Anglican vicars into its ranks, they are now working as parish priests while maintaining families alongside them.

"When it is about winning people from the Church of England there is no problem with a married priest.

"But when an ordinary guy who has given a quarter century of his life and had wanted to give the rest of his life to the Church it is different.

"He has to go because he is seen to be human enough to fall in love as a priest." And controversial Bishop Buckley claimed his departure from the Church would further ingrain the dishonest and growing culture within the priesthood to "do the double".

The 57-year-old dissident cleric from Larne, Co Antrim, said: "Young priests today are living their priesthood on a nine to five basis.

"They are finding the life of a priest too lonely and solitary in the modern world. Most of them are doing the double and exercising their humanity once they take off their robes.

"Many have someone special for intimate companionship. They spend weekends or go on holidays together.

It is normal and the Church turns a blind eye to it. Fr McKenna clearly wasn't prepared to lead a hypocritical and duplicit life.

"If he wanted to he could have lived a double life as 2,000 Irish priests already do."

Bishop Buckley, an openly gay priest who split from the Church in 1986, added: "You cannot ask 400,000 priests around the world to repress their sexuality without creating a monstrous situation. It is still going to come out somewhere.

REPRESSIVE "But the Church prefers to keep its head in the sand and lose good priests like Fr McKenna."

In many areas of the North and the Republic masses are being rationed where the Church is down to one priest per parish - waning numbers once again blamed on the constraints expected of young priests. Fr McKenna, from Gortin in Co Tyrone, dropped his first bombshell sermon during Saturday night mass in Ballymagroarty last week.

He told stunned parishioners that "after a long period of reflection" he was leaving "for a loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship".

But despite the dignity demon-strated, Church leaders in Rome have remained unswayed by McKenna's "pain, struggle and sadness" in reaching his best decision.

In a statement released on Friday, the former priest attempted to scupper a downmarket Sunday tabloid from printing alleged revelations the priest's lover was pregnant and that she had not left her husband when her relationship with Fr McKenna had begun.

He explained: "She and I have been friends for many years.

"However, our relationship began a long time after the break-up of her marriage.

"At no time did I counsel her. She is not pregnant."

Passionist priest Fr Brian D'Arcy said the Church needed to re-examine its celibacy rule.

He added: "Compulsory celibacy is not only a contradiction in terms but it has outlived its use by 1,000 years. It should be changed."

He he Celibacy has outlived its use by 1,000 years. It should be changed FR BRIAN D'ARCY d s t LAW CAN BE CHANGED CELIBACY has long been a contentious issue for the Catholic Church with hundreds of Popes and priests being married and having children.

However, priests' privileges with regards to women have been eroded gradually by various Church leaders. Marriage was largely tolerated by The Vatican until a meeting of the Second Lateran Council in 1139 decreed clerical marriages invalid.

Many clerics continued to marry and have children after that date but many were illegitimate and marriage is now so frowned upon there are only two accepted ways to become a married priest. The first is to have been a Protestant pastor, the second is for a Catholic man to end all sexual relations with his wife before joining the cloth.

The rule of clerical celibacy is a law, not a doctrine, and can be changed by the Pope at any time.

CAPTION(S):

RENEGADE Pat Buckley HONEST Fr McKenna KEEPING THE FAITH Many priests struggle to keep holy orders due to lonely life
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 21, 2009
Words:946
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