A Catholic priest has chosen romance over religion and renounced a 36 years in the church to marry the love of his life, an Essex police detective.
Father John Glynn, 61, formerly of Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, has left the priesthood to be with Christine Thomas, of Billericay CID.
Mr Glynn announced he was leaving in front of a stunned congregation by reading a letter from the Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt Rev Thomas McMahon, who accepted his resignation.
Mr Glynn’s decision came soon after he spent ten weeks at Hawkstone Hall, Shropshire, a retreat where Catholics “can find refreshment for their tired spirit”, according to its website.
During Mr Glynn’s announcement, before a Sunday sermon, he made no mention of why he was going, but later revealed the reason on his website.
Mr Glynn, who was ordained as a priest aged 26 in 1974, wrote: “Part of the reason for going there (Hawkstone Hall) was to take a break after a particularly stressful year, but also I wanted to reflect on my own calling and discern the next stage of the journey.
“The course confirmed my initial feelings that my life should take a new direction.
“After a great deal of prayer I have decided to resign from active ministry as a priest, not because I did not want to remain a priest, but because the constraints parish life put on my ministry prevented me from developing the gifts God has given me.
“And further, I wanted to marry the woman I love, and that is not possible for a Catholic priest at this moment in history.”
Mrs Thomas sings and plays guitar in Mr Flynn’s band John Flynn and Aquilla.
In May, the Echo reported St Luke’s Hospice had helped her come to terms with the death of her husband of 28 years, Clive, 59, who died there of terminal cancer last August.
Mr Glynn, on his website, further reflected: “It is possible, and quite usual in some parts of the church, for a married man to be ordained a priest.
“But an unmarried man, once ordained, is not permitted to marry.
“Some will say it’s unfair.
“Others will point out that a vow of celibacy is for life just as marriage is. I understand both arguments, but accept the reality of the situation.”
Diocese of Brentwood spokeswoman Mary Huntingdon said the decision to leave the priesthood was a very personal one.
She added: “If a priest decides he can no longer carry out his vocation, for whatever reason, he will talk to the bishop and ask for time away to consider his future.
“Since there is no time limit on this, it is usual for a priest to resign his parish at this point.”
Bishop McMahon added: “We are deeply grateful to him for all the wonderful pastoral care he has given during his seven years at Wickford.”
Mr Glynn and Mrs Thomas were unavailable for comment.
Father Dan Mason has taken over at Our Lady of Good Counsel.
It is the second resignation of a Catholic priest in the Basildon district due to the celibacy vow in recent months.
Last March, Father Julian Weiner, formerly of St Basil the Great Catholic Church, in Luncies Road, Basildon, also left the priesthood to be with a woman.