Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Priest, a Nun and Their Children

For those who are interested in how these stories are lived out, former priest Bill and former nun Mary Manseau's son, Peter, tells his family's story in a new book titled: "Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun and Their Son". Details about this publication are available at

The story was summarized yesterday by Dan Harris of ABC News. Here are some excerpts:

...As a kid, Bill Manseau said he "used to play Mass ... as many Catholic kids do." He would recruit his younger siblings to be altar servers and use Necco wafers for communion. At age 19, he entered the seminary.

At age 17, Mary Manseau entered the convent. "I was a very strong, very loyal, very devout Roman Catholic," she said. "And in those days, whatever the church said, that's the way it was."

Despite their devotion, both Mary and Bill eventually began to question the church. Mary left the convent after only a few years.

At the seminary, Bill came to a radical conclusion: Forced celibacy is wrong -- an invention of the church, not the Bible. "For thousands of years," he said, "there were married Catholic priests, married bishops, married popes." Manseau decided that to be more fully a holy man, he needed to experience the "holy union" of marriage...

In 1969, the priest and the former nun got married. They went on to have three children.

...Bill became a crusader for the rights of married priests -- a position that put him at odds with the church hierarchy. The church believes that the commitment of celibacy is an act of love for God and is central to a priest's ability to do his job.

Manseau's conflict with the church entered a new level in 2003, when he decided to ask the church to formally recognize his marriage. In response, he said the church asked him to sign papers that essentially said his ordination was a mistake, "I could not assent to that," he said, "because it's not true."

Even though he now faces a church trial over his marriage, Bill Manseau continues to argue that forced celibacy is at the heart of the priesthood's current problems: poor recruitment and sex abuse scandals. ...

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