"Abuse" by priests is not only about sexual abuse of children, or even the sexual abuse of children and adolescents, or the sexual and physical abuse of children and adolescents. It also includes the sexual abuse (or "sexual harassment") of adults, of religious women, of seminarians, and of junior priests by ecclesiastical superiors. Less obvious, but also very real, is the emotional abuse inflicted on the voluntary partners of priests. The abuse here is inflicted not directly by the priests, but by the institutional rules which force these women and men to keep their relationships, forcing them into a clerical closet not of their own making.We know that there are very many of these, in all areas of the world. Now, like gay men and women before them, some are starting to open the closet doors. I love this open letter to the pope from a group of Italian priests' mistresses. Now, how long will it be before we see some priests' boyfriends make a similar move?
Italian priests' secret mistresses ask pope to scrap celibacy rule
Forty women send unprecedented letter to pontiff saying priests need to 'experience feelings, love and be loved'Dozens of Italian women who have had relationships with Roman Catholic priests or lay monks have endorsed an open letter to the pope that calls for the abolition of the celibacy rule. The letter, thought by one signatory to be unprecedented, argues that a priest "needs to live with his fellow human beings, experience feelings, love and be loved".It also pleads for understanding of those who "live out in secrecy those few moments the priest manages to grant [us] and experience on a daily basis the doubts, fears and insecurities of our men".The issue was put back on the Vatican's agenda in March when one of Pope Benedict's senior advisers, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, said the abolition of the celibacy rule might curb sex abuse by priests, a suggestion he hastily withdrew after Benedict spoke up for "the principle of holy celibacy".The authors of the letter said they decided to come into the open after hearing his retort, which they said was an affirmation of "the holiness of something that is not holy" but a man-made rule. There are many instances of married priests in the early centuries of Christianity. Today, priests who follow the eastern Catholic rites can be married, as can those who married before converting to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism.
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