Italian priest admits publicly to being in love, but says he still wants to be a priestThe Associated Press
Published: August 28, 2007
ROME: An Italian priest acknowledged on national television Tuesday that he was in love with a woman — renewing in a very public way the Roman Catholic Church's debate over celibacy for priests.
Rev. Sante Sguotti, parish priest in Monterosso, near Padua, said he had not violated church law or his vow of celibacy, and wanted to continue working as a priest. But during a lengthy news conference in his parish church, he professed his love for the woman, and said he wanted to publicly be her boyfriend while remaining chaste.
"I cannot have a child. I cannot get married. But I can fall in love, because the Code of Canon Law doesn't provide for any sanction if you fall in love. And I do what the Code of Canon Law says," Sguotti said.
Sguotti acknowledged that what he was doing was "a bit on the limit" of what Canon Law allows for, but stressed that "I hope not to pass the limit, but to stay within."
The case of Sguotti has again reignited the debate over priestly celibacy, particularly because the woman in question has a young son, who Sguotti said he had helped name. He dodged direct questions about whether he was the boy's father, saying only that he cannot have a child according to church law.
Sguotti urged other priests who are living in intimate relations with women to "come out of the shadows," and said he hoped to meet with Emmanuel Milingo, the renegade Zambian archbishop who was excommunicated last year after marrying a woman and launching a crusade for the Vatican to allow priests to marry.
Padua Bishop Antonio Mattiazzo said he was profoundly saddened by Sguotti's comments, and that he shared the suffering of the faithful as well as Sguotti's parents. "Mercy is a great Christian virtue, but it doesn't remove the need to shine light on the truth," he said in a statement, according to the ANSA news agency.
Men in the Eastern rite of the Catholic church who are married can become priests, and the Vatican has accepted into the priesthood some married Anglican priests who converted to Catholicism.
But the Vatican has constantly refused to relax the celibacy requirement for Latin rite priests. The Vatican reaffirmed that last November, when Pope Benedict XVI convened a summit of clergy who rebuffed Milingo's crusade.