Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ralph Pinto: "The Forbidden Priest"

Web Editor's Note: Not sure why this Dominican Republic newspaper is running this interview at this time. Ralph Pinto and his wife, Jane, were featured in a controversial 2004 HBO documentary, "Celibacy". Translation from the Spanish provided by Phoebe, who is still trying to recover from her attempt to explain the history of celibacy and married priesthood in the Catholic Church to her charismatic prayer group last night as part of a talk on the sacrament of Holy Orders. A lot of resistance to these ideas -- I am occasionally stunned by the extent to which the faithful, particularly the Hispanic faithful, are in the dark and in denial about Biblical and early Church scholarship, as well as current debate about these issues. We talked about Peter's mother-in-law and someone said: "Well, of course, Peter left his wife and everything else to follow Jesus!" So I said, "Oh, really? Where in the Bible does it say that Peter left his wife?" Dead silence. So I asked the woman to turn to 1 Cor 9: 5 where Paul says "Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" and pointed out to her that Cephas (Peter) was the name that Simon received AFTER being called by Jesus. Amazing...

By Miguel Cruz Tejada
El Nuevo Diario

NEW YORK -- Ralph Pinto, a priest in the 1990s who left the church for love and describes himself as "the forbidden priest," says that after nearly 30 years of being married to a Franciscan nun and also fathering three daughters with her, he has no regrets for what he did.

"I never agreed with celibacy," he said in an interview for "Celibacy", a documentary by the HBO broadcast chain that aired recently and has been awarded several prizes at international film festivals.

For many experts the multiple cases of sexual abuse by priests against minors in their own churches and seminaries has had much to do with celibacy. Pinto says that leaving the church because he had fallen in love with his current wife, was the hardest moment of his life, but he had to make a decision.

"It was my life and future against an institutional mandate," says the former pastor. "Working in the parish had been my whole life."

He says that some of his friends protested that he loved (God) the Father and did not understand how he could abandon such a beautiful relationship with the Church.

He consulted with a priest-counselor in the archdiocese who told him to concede to his carnal desire, because it could be worse in the future.

The priests who had been his friends told him goodbye and that God would protect him. Nobody helped him with a penny and he was forced to work as a carpenter, cleaning floors in a hotel, and on a night shift in the pantheon of a cemetery.

"I walked around with a vacuum cleaner on my back, sweeping floors and seeking job opportunities. Even though I had a master's degree in theology, philosophy and classical languages. Emotionally it was very bad," says the former priest. "Those were very difficult times".

After 28 years, Ralph maintains that he is happy not to have listened to those who advised him to stay in the church by keeping the relationship secret. "These last 28 years have been the happiest of my life and I thank my wife and my daughters being part of my life, because although I was afraid of being a dad, I now have three wonderful young ladies who have grown up with us," adds the former Franciscan priest.

"I'm glad to have done what I did and would do so again and again," he says.

But it turns out that the situation was even more complicated for Ralph, because the woman he fell in love with was a Franciscan nun named Jane who taught at his church.

She participated in the interview by saying that she has been grateful all her life that she fell in love with the priest, because that gave her more understanding about life and brought her the happiness that she had not achieved before. "It gave me an opportunity to build a life together with another human being."

The former nun says that in making this decision she knew she would be obliged to leave the convent. "And as I would be pointed out and embarrassed, I would also have to leave the community and so I did." She says she was aware that she would be abandoning everything that she had known, all that was her life and vocation.

She tells of going to the chapel of the convent and praying to God, asking forgiveness for what she was about to do, weeping from the depths of her soul. "I cried to the point where I discovered that I would not be in that position of falling in love had it not been for something good, holy and of God."

The nun says that many people believe that women religious are objects of sexual satisfaction for many priests who are obliged to comply with celibacy and cannot do so.

"Some believe that they can free themselves sexually by using any woman, then tossing her aside and returning to their parishes, and many of those women have to remain silent" said the nun.

Two of her daughters were sired by a priest, but everything changed when another priest declared his love. "I took up the crucifix daily, went to church, prayed, but when I did not receive any response, my frustration was so enormous that I picked up a bottle of Tylenol pills (a pain reliever) and I took almost the entire contents. The aim was to commit suicide, but I did not die and he came to see me in the hospital," the former Franciscan stated dramatically.

After separating from her first husband, she went to live alone and had sex with her new friend with whom she got pregnant, but he claimed that he could not acknowledge the baby. The priest ignored the calls from the hospital when his daughter was born, but six months later he returned. The bishop advised her to leave the city and have no more contact with the priest.

"According to them, I was to blame. I was rubbish. They refused to support me. They like to exploit women in order to maintain their position in the church," she criticized.

Since that time, the relationship between her and Ralph has lasted 28 years. "That has made him a pariah for the church."

The former nun attacked the Catholic Church for allowing priests who rape young men, abuse women or girls and keep their relationships secret, to remain part of the congregation, while rejecting those who want to proclaim [their relationships] publicly and do as God wills.

"And if the priest has a woman even though she is not his wife publicly, if he keeps it a secret, he can continue in the church. The crime is speaking out." adds the former nun. (HBO Documentary contributed to this report)

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