Priests’ girlfriends call on Pope to end celibacy law
Forty women who have had affairs with priests ask Pope Benedict to lift sex ban on the clergy
A group of 40 frustrated Italian women have written to Pope Benedict XVI begging him to repeal the Catholic church's celibacy rules - so they can have relationships with priests.
The women, most of whom have refused to give their names, have all had, or are having, affairs with members of the clergy and are fed up with having to keep their feelings under wraps.
Their letter describes the vow as a "tattered shroud" and explains how they must "live daily with the doubts, fears and insecurities of our men" because their relationships are clandestine.
The group were moved to write to the Pontiff when he rejected calls to lift the ban. In March the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, said that if priests were allowed to live normal lives then the number of sex abuse scandals might fall. But Pope Benedict responded by saying he was in favour of "the principle of holy celibacy".
The women say that his comments were a "reaffirmation of the sacredness of what is not sacred in the least".
They maintain that the ban on priests and the aptly-named lay monks having relationships is not laid down in the Scriptures of the Gospels and was never mentioned by Jesus. Indeed, they point out that many of the Disciples were married.
In the early years of Christianity many priests were married and in some eastern Catholic churches the practise is allowed, and converts to Catholicism who join the priesthood can remain married.
The letter argues that "the priest, like any human being, needs to live with his fellow beings, to have feelings, to love and be loved."
It has been signed by 40 women, although only three have given their names. One of those who has gone public is 41-year-old Antonella Carisio, who says she had a two-and-a-half year relationship with a Brazilian priest called Edecir Calegari.
When their relationship was discovered he was moved to a different parish. Calegari later showed that, despite his priestly leanings, he was still able to talk about past relationships like most other men. "I made a mistake and it just happened, but I didn't have strong feelings," he shrugged.
Carisio tells a different story. "He couldn't forsake the status and the privilege of being a priest, he couldn't admit to being just a man," she said, before accusing him of "egoism and cowardice". ·
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