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Priest says celibacy rule is 'dysfunctional' - The Irish News
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Priest says celibacy rule is 'dysfunctional'

Fr Tony Flannery 

THE Catholic Church must urgently tackle its "dysfunctional" rules on priestly celibacy, according to a cleric at the centre of the lobby for reform.

Fr Tony Flannery, co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), spoke yesterday after a rally was held in west Belfast by parishioners supporting a priest facing claims he broke his celibacy vow.

Fr Ciaran Dallat (52), who is based at St Peter's Cathedral, has not been seen publicly since reports emerged that he had a two-year affair with a 49-year-old unidentified business woman.

Galway Redemptorist Fr Flannery, who quit his post as the head of ACP following a highly-publicised dispute with a Vatican watchdog over his liberal views, said the claims surrounding Fr Dallat were symptomatic of the "whole dysfunction" of priestly life in the 21st century.

"Life for priests is getting worse because they are becoming increasingly more isolated. They are living alone and they are no longer in the traditional situation where they would have had a housekeeper and fellow priests.

"A priest is often working on his own in the parish, because most parishes now have just one priest, and he is living alone. It's a very isolating situation," Fr Flannery said.

The author and campaigner said he had met "so many" priests who had secret relationships with women that had ended disastrously.

"They become involved in very passionate and usually short-lived relationships. They are full of guilt because of their [celibacy] vows," he said.

"They'll often go on retreat or talk to their confessor or spiritual director and will be advised to end the relationship.

"They then drop the woman in what can be a very heartless way and she is left very hurt and embittered," he said.

Fr Flannery said that in these cases women are usually seen as "the temptress" by the Church, rather than being "considered as a human being".

"There is a tendency for a priest to completely turn his back on the woman without a proper explanation," he said.

Fr Flannery, who has sought reforms on the Church's stance on women priests, celibacy and homosexuality, revealed that he believed the Vatican would have to tackle the issue of married priests "before too long".

He said that there were already many cases of married men quitting the Church of England to be ordained as Catholic priests, so there existed a precedent for families within parochial houses.

Fr Flannery said it was ironic that there had been cases in England where a Catholic priest had left his ministry in order to marry, only to be replaced by a former Protestant minister with a family.

"It is time for change," he said. Meanwhile, a Facebook page set up to support Fr Dallat has been liked by more than 1,500 people. Parishioners are planning to hold a candlelight vigil at St Peter's Cathedral at 7.30pm tomorrow night.

 

 

 

* SUPPORT: Above, a Facebook page set up in support of Fr Ciaran Dallat has acquired 1,500 likes. Campaigner for Church reform Fr Tony Flannery, right, said it is time to reconsider the rule on celibacy

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