PASSION PLAY THAT IS ALL TOO HUMAN; as Another Sex Scandal Hits the Catholic Church, JULIA CLARKE Asks Whether the Time Has Come for Priests to Be Allowed to Marry the Women They Love

Article excerpt

The appeal of a man with a ministry is, of course, not a new phenomenon.

The arrival of a handsome young priest in a parish has always set a few female hearts fluttering a bit faster.

They may have taken a vow of chastity, but there will always be a few women who see breaking one of the last remaining taboos almost as a challenge.

And in a village where the pool of available men is limited, a man who is sensitive, kind and educated is bound to have a certain attraction.

Add to that the fact that the priest may be ministering to parishioners at a time when they are vulnerable - after a bereavement, for example - and the scene can be set for a relationship to develop.

It's a dilemma that was played to perfection on screen by Richard Chamberlain in The Thorn Birds.

In real life, though, it can be a messy affair, resulting in a double life and considerable misery for priests forced to hide their love. Father Pat Buckley is a rebel priest who now has a ministry in Larne in Northern Ireland.

He travels to Scotland six times a year to marry divorcees and helps run a support group of 100 women who are in relationships with priests.

Yesterday, he urged Bishop Roddy Wright to contact him so he could help unravel the love triangle between the Church and the woman he is believed to have run off with.

And the 44-year-old priest accused the Church of forcing Bishop Wright to run through their intolerance.

He says: "Love is not a crime and the Bible does not say it is a crime, even for a priest.

"If Bishop Wright truly loves this woman, he should hold a Press conference to tell the world how he feels, and then set about sorting out the other issues. He should listen to God, before Cardinal Winning."

He adds: "The rule of celibacy is the Catholic Church's way of sexually abusing its priests. Some men may be cut out for that way of life, but many more are not and have to live a lie"

"Sexual power is natural and must find an outlet. When it doesn't, it can lead to all sorts of problems, such as paedophile priests."

FATHER BUCKLEY is adamant that the issue of celibacy within the Church is not going to go away.

And that by insisting priests do not marry, the Church is driving good men like Bishop Wright from their calling.

Eamonn Casey, the Bishop of Galway, was forced to resign in disgrace and become a missionary after it was revealed he fathered a child with an American divorcee. …