Catholic bishop in England resigns over affair with woman, calls decision ‘liberating’
CANTERBURY, England (RNS) —A 63-year-old Roman Catholic bishop who had an affair six years ago with a woman said he feels calm, liberated and relieved after submitting his resignation to Pope Francis.
In an official statement made public Sept. 27, Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton — regions in southern England — apologized for his actions.
“I am sorry to confess that going back some years I have been unfaithful to my promises as a Catholic priest,” he said. “I would like to assure you that my actions were not illegal and did not involve minors.”
Conry was consecrated bishop in 2011.
His resignation came the day before The Mail on Sunday, a British tabloid, published details of the affair.
After his resignation, the paper quoted the former bishop as saying: “In some respects I feel very calm. It is liberating. It is a relief.”
But it may not be the end of the matter.
The former bishop now stands accused of a second affair, this one with a married parishioner 20 years his junior who is a mother of two children.
The Mail on Sunday featured a photo of Conry in an open-neck shirt and slacks carrying a shopping bag next to a woman with shoulder-length blond hair. Her face was blanked out by the editor for legal reasons.
The tabloid claimed that the unnamed woman’s husband is considering legal action against the Catholic Church for allegedly keeping silent about Conry. The bishop is a close friend of the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
Priests’ mistresses and wives remind the Vatican: Don’t forget about us
By JOSEPHINE MCKENNA
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.”
Pope Francis tries again on traditionalist reconciliation after Benedict XVI failed
By JOSEPHINE MCKENNA
VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Picking up a piece of unfinished business that consumed the energies of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Vatican under Pope Francis is again trying to repair a decades-old breach with a controversial group of traditionalist Catholics.
Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, who heads the Vatican body responsible for doctrine, held a two-hour meeting on Sept. 23 with the head of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, and other senior officials from the breakaway group.
In a statement, the Vatican said the parties had discussed “problems of a doctrinal and canonical nature” that need to be resolved before the traditionalists can be fully reconciled with the church.
“During the meeting . . . it was decided to proceed gradually and over a reasonable period of time in order to overcome difficulties and with a view to the envisioned full reconciliation,” the Vatican statement said.
The late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre established the controversial SSPX in Switzerland in 1970. It was founded largely as a rejection of the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which shelved the Latin Mass and overhauled the church’s relationship with Jews and Judaism.
Relations between the two sides hit their lowest point in 1988, when the Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre and four bishops after they were consecrated without the consent of St. John Paul II.
Benedict made reconciliation with the SSPX a top priority, but was roundly criticized when one of the rehabilitated bishops, Richard Williamson, turned out to be a vocal Holocaust denier. He was later expelled from SSPX.
Three years of talks collapsed in 2012 when Fellay refused to endorse doctrinal demands sought by the Holy See; last year, SSPX appeared to harden its stance after the election of Pope Francis.
While communication remains open, there are many within the Vatican who would prefer to see a formal split between the parties but Francis appears to favour closer dialogue at least for now.