A Catholic priest in Australia has made a controversial revelation: he has been married to a Filipina for a year now.
According to Yahoo! Australia's 7News, Father Kevin Lee, a priest for 20 years in Glenmore Park, Sydney, admits "living a double life" with his wife Josephina, whom he met in the Philippines. “So I've fallen in love and I've got married and it's outside of most people's awareness, but I'm sure people within the church could have had a suspicion,” Lee told 7News. The Australian priest claimed that there are many others like him and that he pitied those “sacrificing” priests around the world who are denying themselves a relationship.
“That's one of the reasons that motivated me to make public my admission that I'm one of those people who's been a pretender: To draw to the attention of the public that there are more like me, in fact most of them,” Lee was quoted as saying. “I feel sorry for them, I really do, but I think they need to admit they are not being led properly. I think celibacy has to go as a prerequisite for being a minister in the Catholic religion,” he added.
While urging for the abolition of celibacy, Lee also plans to write a book about what he believes is the wider wrongdoing of fellow priests. However, after making a public confession of his marriage, 7News reported that Lee has been removed from his position as parish priest and has been excommunicated by the church.
The head of the diocese, Bishop Anthony Fisher, denied Lee's claim that most priests live double lives and that the hierarchy knew of his marriage. “As Father Kevin is aware, by his actions he can no longer operate as a priest and as a result I will immediately be appointing an administrator to Padre Pio parish,” Fisher said in a statement.
This piece of news doesn’t surprise me: it’s nothing new; this is not the first time that this has happened, nor will it be the last.
No, I’m not shocked, nor will I feign outrage at my brother priest’s remarks. However the guy has said some things that have made me thinking.
First of all it doesn’t surprise me that he’ll end up confessing his “marriage”, an announcement which undoubtedly would sadden not only the community that he had been building up for so long, but would also wound the greater community that is the Church. Such things cannot be kept under wraps for so long. I don’t know how to cook rice, but from what I’ve observed, the contents of a bubbling pot tend to spill out sooner or later (though in most cases, it’s more sooner than later). It doesn’t surprise me; the guy has got the whole package: the girl’s got looks (she’s quite a catch), and she’s Filipina, and that means that stereotypically he’s got someone who’s caring and loving. But most of all because, as he himself admitted, he has been living a double life.
There you got it.
Celibacy doesn’t have to get the blame for that. It’s like saying that, having been caught committing adultery, you blame being married to your wife. That is why I kinda reacted when Fr. Kevin (he is, after all, an ordained priest) said that he pitied those “sacrificing” priests around the world who were denying themselves of a relationship.
I would daresay that this is another misstep that he had committed. I am no judge of the heart, nor would I judge him, but then I was thinking about the way he had been considering his whole priestly life of twenty years: is priesthood not a relationship, and a loving one at that? Was it not supposed to be a life of prayer, and prayer understood as a relationship? When a priest ceases to pray, that is when he feels most alone, and turns around looking for relationships. Now I’m not saying that Fr. Kevin doesn’t pray, however. But intuitively I know that there has never been a priest who took his prayer life seriously who left the priesthood, no matter how tough things were going.
I think a double life in anyone—whether he a priest or a married man—is caused by the fact that he has lost his center of gravity. A married man begins to offer more than just a cursory glance at other women than his wife because his life has ceased to revolve around her. In the case of the priest this is because his personal relationship with Jesus Christ has waned.
“I feel sorry for them, I really do. I think that they need to admit that they are not being led properly. I think celibacy has to go as a prerequisite for being a minister in the Catholic religion”, Fr. Lee says. One could invent a thousand and one reasons against the discipline of clerical celibacy. Priests are supposed to be smart. But in the end one could only be sorry for himself. Fr. Lee may be right in some way when he referred to priests who are still in the ministry living a double life the same way as he does as needing to be led properly (we have also a crisis of episcopal authority and shepherding in the Church), but celibacy is not the reason for the scandal that he has helped in unleashing. If he thinks that it’s time for celibacy to go, I respect for his personal opinion, and am glad that we could agree to disagree on this point. Thank God the Magisterium of the Catholic Church doesn’t depend on personal opinion, or consensus, or majority, or polls.
This piece of news doesn’t shock nor anger nor discourage me. It’s nothing new, as I’ve said; I wonder why they placed this kind of thing in the first place. It all the more bolsters the conviction that much of the media nowadays thrives not on the truth but on sensationalism: the truth doesn’t seem to be so popular nowadays.
But this does move me to something, however. More than anything else, this has moved me to fall on my knees. This guy, and the rest who seem to have their fifteen seconds of fame for leaving the priesthood—Fr. Alberto Cutie, Fr. John Corappi, and now this—were better priests than me. If they were able to let this happen in their life, how much more in my mine? Only God’s grace could save me from the same fate, and my fidelity to that grace. As they say it in Spanish, no somos nada, we’re nothing.
I could sure thank Fr. Kevin for pointing out the root cause of this trouble.