I WAS a priest for more than 15 years and now married outside the church, and am writing to comment on letters from a former priest's parents, January 3, and a priest in his early thirties, January 17, concerning people in the position of my wife and myself. These letters speak of blinded priests, guilt and sin. May I suggest to people who are secure within the household of the faith that decisions to leave the priesthood and to marry are not as clearcut as they seem.
/ suspect that many priests who decide to leave, follow a path similar to mine, where they reach a point where to continue as a priest would be dishonest and therefore wrong. There came a time when my convictions had changed and I tried to carry on — torn by the fear that to leave would be to betray those whom I had promised to serve for life, yet to stay was to preach many things in which I no longer believed.
I left finally because to have remained would have been to live a lie. Marriage was a subsequent and quite separate decision. Yet even after having left, the conflict remains — knowing I have done right, but knowing that others have been hurt and fearing that I might have been deceived — and be harming the person whose life I now share.
For people like my wife and myself, the warmth of Mrs Crawford Leighton's letter, Jan 10, tells more of the values of Christ than the innacurate and sweeping judgements of the letters to which I refer.
Another feature of the letters is that the woman who marries a former priest is described as "Eve", incapable of being a "good Catholic girl" and apparently just an appendage to the former priest. There does not seem to be a realisation that there are two people involved and the woman is just as important and makes just as hard and conscientious a decision.
She does not seem to count and even qualify for pastoral care. Could it be that this attitude explains why many women feel that they do not have a place in the church? It was also remarkable that the letters seem to condemn the priest more for upsetting his parents and other people and do not consider the reasons and needs of the man himself.
Did not Christ say that people should leave behind considerations of family and friends when deciding on matters of truth. Surely this indicates we must make decisions on the basis of principles, not on the views of others.
My wife and myself do not seek approval or sympathy. We only ask some people in the Church to understand that decisions can be taken for sincere and conscientious reasons which are more complex than they appear from the outside.
(Name and address supplied)