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Posted January 29, 2010
My wife and I have known and worked with many priests during our lives in a variety of ministries and this account of one priest's struggles with his sexuality is definitely not a good characterization of the priesthood. It is simply the story of one man who took some rather specific vows and then ignored them. For non-Catholics it may be a good read, but it will unfortunately give them an inaccurate broad-brush view of priests. For Catholics it is frustrating because of the seeming lack of guidance this priest received when he sought help and guidance. It is hard to believe that one of his confessors told him "now you are a man" after a sexual encounter. The Catholic confessional simply does not work that way. At the least his confessor failed him badly.
The book reads much like a racy novel and has a striking lack of remorse for past deeds. All seems well as long as his love is requited. In a novel that might work - in a non-fiction life story by a priest it appears more like "what's in it for me?". As a priest he should have realized early on that his life style was not compatible with Catholic teaching - instead of continuing to flout church doctrine he should have left the priesthood. By remaining a priest while not living like one, he casts a shadow on all those who adhere to the vows they took.
Posted January 20, 2010
"Celibate Lovers." Sounds like an oxymoron but is actually a provocative title of a well-written book by two non-professsional authors detailing what could only be described as their unique lives as lovers before ultimately marrying and becoming conventional man and wife.
Mike Conley was a Catholic priest for 20 years who had, at his own admission, never tried to hide or excuse the fact he had several sexual affairs with women as a priest. The women ranged from married, to several nuns, to one who admitted she had been with other priests before Mike. "The reality was that I had not been without a woman for nearly my entire priesthood," Mike writes.
Then he met Jean, who alternately describes herself as "Miss Goody Two Shoes" and then "Good Girl Gone Bad." A new dilemma evolves for the couple when their relationship grows into love and they decide to be "Celibate Lovers."
Catholics and non-Catholics alike may be disturbed by Mike's "want his cake and eat it, too" attitude toward his vow of chastity as a priest and at Jean, a lifelong Catholic and a widow in her early 40s succumbing to the attraction of "forbidden fruit" in a priest.
But the Conleys, now married for nearly 24 years, present an intriguing view on the vow of chastity that Catholic clerics, and only Catholic clerics among Christian religions, must take. "It may appear as though the priesthood functions in a rather acceptable manner," they write, "but anyone who has an inkling of what goes on underneath the facade knows that their lifestyle comes with many problems." They continue, referring to a "high incidence of alcoholism, a vast number of priests who use women for sex, and ... some (who) prey on children in an effort to satisfy their sexual needs. There are even rehabilitation centers designated specifically for the treatment of priests with these problems."
The book is written in an intersting format with Mike and Jean writing alternate chapters about themselves and then coming together at the end, much as their lives have traveled.
As they state in their introduction, it is a "provocative story of a priest and a widow who intellectually entered into a celibate relationship and discovered the power of love."