LETTER:Priests who cannot keep to celibacy

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From Ms Clare Jenkins

Sir: Regarding the letters written in reply to Bishop Hugh Lindsay's Another View about clerical celibacy: Margaret Owen (letter, 8 July) refers to the "dangerous social consequences" of enforced celibacy. As someone who has just written a book about Roman Catholic priests' relationships (often clandestine) with women, I agree wholeheartedly with her view. But I would like to point out that it is not just in other countries (she mentions Spain, Italy and Ireland) that frustrated and sometimes sexually abusive priests are to be found.

My own four years of research indicate that there are many priests in Britain who cannot live true to their promise of celibacy: with the result that many women have found, and are still finding, themselves in relationships with priests which are characterised by secrecy and deceit. I have been in contact with 60 such women, all of whom know at least one other woman in a similar situation. Indeed, sometimes it seems as though every Catholic knows someone who knows someone who has had an affair or a "romantic friendship" with a priest.

So when is the church going to acknowledge this fact publicly, set up a working party to look into the issue, and commission an independent report on seminary selection and training practices?

Yours faithfully,

Clare Jenkins


The writer is author of `A Passion for Priests' (Headline, 1995).