Retired Irish bishop questions celibacy, ban on marriage and afterlife
The Rev. William Walsh, the retired Bishop of Killaloe, which is the Clare diocese, has told the Irish Times that he has deep questions about the afterlife, celibacy and thought of leaving the priesthood to get married because of loneliness.
Walsh, now 75, speaking of his attraction to certain women stated “There would have been a very strong attraction there at times, certainly, and you would of course wonder, wouldn’t it be lovely to be married to that person, even to the extent of wondering whether I should leave the priesthood,” he says.
“Thankfully I don’t think I’ve ever exploited those sorts of loving relationships, which certainly have enriched my life.”
He says he had such thoughts more than once “More than one is all I’ll say. But nowadays what I’d see as part of the sacrifice of celibacy would be a degree of envy I’d feel when I see grandparents and how much new life and wonder and joy grandchildren bring to them. That would make you lonely at times.”
Walsh stated he struggled with basic faith at times. “I would have been struggling with faith itself. In some ways faith is a leap in the dark. There was never a doubt about the values which I believe Christ showed us – truth and compassion and forgiveness – but there would have been questions of how deep is your belief?”
Such as in the divinity of Christ? “As deep as that.”
“Even now I’m not smug about it. I’m content that I’ve lived my life generally the way I feel I should have lived it, and I have no regrets. But I see now more and more when I’m talking to close friends, loyal to the church all their lives, and their children are saying: ‘I don’t want any part in that, the way you treat women, the whole abuse thing.’ And those parents would be saying to me: ‘We begin to wonder at this stage did we get it wrong?’ And I begin to say to myself – I don’t want to say it to myself…” He hesitates. “Well, could it end with a hole in the ground?”
“I suppose at this stage I have decided that I choose to believe to some degree, but I can’t prove from reason these teachings.”
“I think if you can accept the existence of God, then all the other things are possible. And there’s the other side, which is that if you believe in nothing, you can believe in everything – like The Da Vinci Code. So, ultimately, believing in God and the afterlife is the only way I can make sense of life. It’s a huge leap.”
He says God is not a harsh or judgemental figure. “I just can’t accept condemnatory judgments from anyone, because every time I come across something that’s wrong or evil there’s always a story behind it. Yeah, that’s wishy-washy, I know. It worries me a bit but I certainly prefer that to this harsh judgmentalism.”
In terms of child abuse by priests he says the life of being sequestered away from a very young age damaged many priests.
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