Beliefs Institutions

Priests’ mistresses and wives remind the Vatican: Don’t forget about us

Groom holds the bride's hand in his hand.
Groom holds the bride's hand in his hand.

Photo courtesy of Andrey Dubinin via Shutterstock

Groom holds the bride’s hand in his hand.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) For years, they have been invisible and often afraid to identify themselves. But the women sometimes dubbed “God’s rivals”  are no longer willing to remain silent.

Twenty-six Italian women who are married to or in relationships with Catholic priests want clerical celibacy to be overturned by the world’s bishops when they meet in Rome for their global synod on the family in October.

And they are angry that Pope Francis has not responded to a letter they sent earlier this year urging him to relax the Roman Catholic Church’s mandatory position on clergy celibacy and recognize their relationships.

“We are aware that the serious foreign political news, particularly in the Middle East, has left little time for our stories, which in the face of violence and death, seem inevitably to disappear,” the women said in a statement sent to Religion News Service.

“However we wish to resume dialogue with all who find themselves in our situation and with the Holy Father, particularly in light of the synod on the family which is about to begin.

“Our major fear is that the memory of our letter, which has never had a response, is being slowly stifled and that everything is really being lost in that silence.”

One of few women to go public is Anna Ferretti from Naples. Earlier this year, she told RNS she has been with the priest she married for more than 40 years and they now have four children.

Her husband gave up celebrating Mass and hearing confessions when they got married, but in the couple’s eyes — if not in the eyes of the church — he’s still a priest because he never formally renounced his vows. They’ve lived together ever since.

“Celibacy is not a dogma, it is a law,” Ferretti told RNS at the time. “If a priest decides to marry, he can bring new love into the church.”

In their letter to the pope, the women said they wanted to “break the wall of silence and indifference that they are fighting every day.”

KRE/MG END McKENNA

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

39 Comments

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  • All ROMAN CATHOLICS/CATHOLICS should be asking why their church leaders are in denial of WOMEN. They are absolutely in denial of women. So in denial they have to have the mother of Jesus IMMACULATE … the poor woman. Is this some outlandish fantasy the Vatican officials have that they can’t even respond to those who have been asking for a response in the matter of married clergy?

    COME ON, POPE FRAN, SHOW THEM WHAT YOU ARE MADE OF! Or are you still fixated on that “brotherly love” in your “fraternal” dialogues?

    I have an early trick-or-treat for you men … the first “bishop”:

    When the Prophet asked for a drink, who gave it to Him?

    Peace to you

  • God hates women.

    It is the one relentless, consistent theme of the Bible.
    Same for the Q’uran
    Same for the Torah

    Religion is not only primitive and man made.
    It is clearly primitive ‘male’ made.

    All women and decent men should abandon this garbage.

  • Those women and their husbands or lovers should be ashamed of themselves. Instead they want concessions. Pitiful.

  • There are probably at least as many priests engaged in what their church considers illicit, sinful sex with women as there are ephebophiles and pedophiles.

    When is the Catholic Church going to wake up and recognize that its requirement of celibacy for ordination to the priesthood is the basic problem. So many men think they can ignore their sexual urges, forego marriage, and are then confronted with the awful problem of not being able to maintain the chastity of their celibate promises.

    Celibacy makes the priesthood a false haven for ephebophiles, pedophiles, gay men, and straight men who are unable to live up to the chastity implicated in their celibacy promises. Sex is a natural and demanding drive. To ignore it it is unnatural and results in all the sex problems the church tries to hide because of the scandal they bring to “Holy Mother Church.” Holy Mother Church causes all of its own scandal about sex because of its unnatural attitudes about sex.

    Both men and women should think at least twice before taking vows of chastity when entering religious communities. Of the so-called evangelical vows or “virtues” of property, chastity, and obedience, poverty is not a reality. We must all submit obediently to various authorities in life. Some religious life requires more and different kinds of obedience.

    Poverty is rather inconsequential, obedience might be a bit greater in religious communities, but again, it’s chastity, an unnatural attitude toward the sixth sense of humans, that causes the real problem for secular priests and members of religious communities.

  • It’s the church and its presumed chaste leaders that are wrong. Notice the drop in those choosing a life of chastity (celibacy) since Vatican II how it has increased since the unfolding of the criminal sex scandal in the church.

    The real scandal for the church is its unnatural concentration on sex, its hypocritical opposition to sex. The church’s attitude has absolutely nothing to do with religion.

  • Why should they be ashamed? How 19th century of you.
    Women and men enjoy each other. Wasn’t that your God’s plan all along? I mean, if he didn’t want them to have sex why did he build us to get lusty for one another? Maybe because…he didn’t because he isn’t?

  • “Both men and women should think at least twice before taking vows of chastity”
    No. They should rule it out. The only happy priests I’ve known either had a woman (or a man) on the side or instead just found old age and the drop off in sexuality a big relief. Few things have caused more needless misery than religion.

  • Celibacy, whether for God or humanity or both is a beautiful thing. It does not mean that sex is regarded as evil, but that it is regarded as beautiful when subordinated to Someone or something besides oneself. Physicians, scholars and others, as well as priests and nuns over millennia have remained celibate in order to answer to a higher calling for God and/or humanity.
    And by canon (church) law, a priest is always a priest–as in the Sacrament of Baptism, an indelible mark is on the soul of the person who receives Holy Orders. This does not mean he always have permission to celebrate the Sacraments if he has committed a major offense. The bishop gives permission to celebrate the Sacraments, because the bishop has the fullness of the priesthood.
    The world is rightly outraged when people break their priestly vows or promises. Too bad the breaking of marriage vows aren’t taken as seriously, or the breaking of any promise, oath or vow, or perjury.
    If a priest wants to marry, he can ask to join one of the Eastern Rites of the Church, where priests can marry and have children. None of this sneaking around and saying that priests should be allowed to marry. It takes over 8 years to become a priest which is plenty of time for a man to make up his mind. And he should have done some dating beforehand to understand the beautiful thing he is giving up. The same applies to would-be nuns.

  • Hey, Geraldine Marie,

    A HIGHER calling? I think you may have been misled in your catechism classes.

    Have you read:

    “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath. But let your speech be, yea, yea: no, no: that you fall not under judgment.”

    Choosing a “celibate” lifestyle is one thing, turning it into Christ’s TEACHING is another. Take care that you do not misrepresent the Holy Spirit, and place stumbling blocks before the people. Maybe you ought to reexamine Paul’s words in SPIRIT VERSE before you place yourself into some type of HOLY ORDINATION of special significance. Do you think God sees you any differently than a woman having given birth to three children?

    Peace to you

  • The catch is that in eastern rite churches, the priest must marry prior to any ordinations. A man already ordained cannot marry.

  • This is childishness, Leabug. Who are these men to determine uniting? Rules-rules-rules-rules … that eventually catch up with them and cause many to trip and fall. I have personally heard from priests who have been denied more personal and intimate relationships (due to death of spouse and not been permitted to marry again) that they fear turning into chalk. I find to these rules patronizing and insipid. It begins to show in their performance.

    Peace

  • “Celibacy, whether for God or humanity or both is a beautiful thing.”

    Yeah, right.
    Not having sex is beautiful.

    Not eating can be a beautiful thing, too. Why bother with that ugly digestion tract and its foul mechanics?

    Not drinking water can be a beautiful thing too. Why bother with that ugly urinary tract?

    Not thinking can be a beautiful thing, too apparently – ignorance is perfect bliss.
    Like being dead!!

    What corrupting, ridiculous, childish nonsense is religion!

  • First of all Geraldine Marie,
    You have not explained the law of swearing oaths required in your institution. Hmm?

    Second, your HIGHER CALLING based on the following passage that you tell me to read has to do with SENSE AND REASON in the Spiritual aligning of Truth! It is Spiritually SYMBOLIC, for why would Spirit demean, or lessen, motherhood; fatherhood; childhood; partnering—relegating it to a LOWER status, or a LOWER, LESSER calling? What would happen if everybody thought like you and decided that it is a HIGHER calling to stay celibate? Good gracious lordy me! Geraldine Marie, do you really think VIRGINITY means the ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN? Virginity is a purity of Worth in Light of Love (Spirit). Read, Geraldine … discern … learn and grow … move!

    GOD SHOWS NO FAVORITISM.

    Peace

  • Why should getting married (or not) be made into such a big deal? It is common sense and also a human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says::

    “(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

    “(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.”

    The Catholic Church, by forbidding priests to marry, is denying people their human rights. This abuse should stop.

  • P.S. If you believe in God; I think He said be fruitful and multiply!
    Now look at Lucifer’s idea; inspiring man to be celibate. Behold the results of that master plan… a whole church full of, well, you fill in the rest!

  • Michael Glass, you post …

    “Why should getting married (or not) be made into such a big deal? It is common sense and also a human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says::

    “(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

    “(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.”

    The Catholic Church, by forbidding priests to marry, is denying people their human rights. This abuse should stop.”
    **************************************************
    This is simply worded, and yet, it says a lot. Just last night I was speaking with a Catholic about a priest who struggled with loneliness, and alcoholism. He views the Roman Catholic Church as abusive.

    Peace

  • Ophelia,
    ‘GOD SHOWS NO FAVORITISM.’???

    really? Which god are you manufacturing into existence?
    Because I have never heard of a god which is not in primarily in favor of the males who created them!

  • Sister, you said, “nuns over millennia have remained celibate in order to answer to a higher calling for God and/or humanity.”
    How did the activity or inactivity of a penis or a vagina ever affect the duties of a god?
    Do you even think of the things you say?

  • Atheist Max is right.
    I agree completely. I don’t know how other women don’t catch on but I became an atheist around the time when I was a teenager and learned God didn’t like my periods. It made no sense to me that a god would make something that disgusted him so much. It makes no sense at all.

  • Frank, life is too short to be in your shoes. I’m glad I don’t have those manacles tying me down. Jeesh.

  • Every society/family/association/way of life has expectation and rules. The catholic priest influenced by experience and holy spirit has hers . To be part of it an adult either follows them or forget joining. It is about a concious choice made by an adult. There is confusion therein.

  • We know that Saint Peter was married because Jesus visited his mother-in-law.
    For the first 1,000 years of the Roman Catholic church, in the Orthodox Church today, and in the Jewish churches of Jesus’s day and today, priests have been allowed to marry.
    It was the issue of inheritance that led the restriction of celibacy, and not the issue of sin. If a priest had no wife or children, the church would naturally inherit all his belongings and land upon his death.

  • Now wouldn’t it be great if the headline at the October 2015 Synod read

    “Pope Francis announces that Priests can marry and women can become priests at the Synod of Bishops on the Family 2015.”

    Enough all ready about studying this, we can’t do this and the thousands of excuses as to why they can’t. It has become beyond ridiculous and we are all created in GOD’s image, women, man and each one of us given gifts to live out our purpose for GOD. For those who think because I am a women I cannot be a Priest, may you have your reasons ready to answer to GOD this inexcusable argument of why not. I also pray that you will be forgiven as sometimes your excuses are not born out of anything perhaps than repeating the excuse because of “Catholic Church Dogma,” or because the Pope said.

  • Frank, may God reward you. Let them say what they may. Like you rightly said, they are free to regect God. I’m encouraging you as my brother in Christ- keep fighting the good fight. May Christ give us the grace of final perseverance.

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