“Want the human story on priestly celibacy? Talk to someone who’s paid the price.
I am bitterly disappointed by the news that Pope Francis will not be relaxing priestly celibacy rules in remote parts of the Amazon. The idea — intended to make it easier to recruit priests in underserved areas — was supported by a Vatican Conference in October, but in his papal document, released on Wednesday, Francis ignored their suggestion.
My interest in this isn’t the mild curiosity of a lapsed Catholic. I am the child of a priest who broke his vow of celibacy and left a legacy of secrecy that was devastating to him, to my mother and particularly to me.
To hide my father’s broken vow, I was told that I was adopted. I did not know until I was 35 that my “adoptive” mother was actually my grandmother and my adoptive sister was, in reality, my mother. But even then, I wasn’t told the whole truth. At the time, I was told my father had been a businessman from Pennsylvania.
If I had only known that my real father was the beloved young pastor of our local Polish parish in Norwood, Mass. He was a regular guest in our home, and we attended weekly Mass in his church. He died at the end of my freshman year at Smith College. I didn’t find out until the age of 50, on the day of my birth mother’s funeral, that the man I adored as “Pate” — my own nickname, short for the Latin pater — and the community knew as “Father Hip” was my father.”