US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The other woman

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What's it like to be the lover of a priest?

It seems that some Italian woman have decided that it's time to step out of the shadows and write an open letter to the pope about the challenges of celibacy and the failure of priests to uphold celibacy.

This would be the story picked up by secular media companies as the Year of the Priest draws to a close in the next few days (see our award-winning coverage). You can read/listen to the story at NPR, though they don't mention that it's the Year of the Priest. The special year does seem to be going out with fireworks with this letter, protests from sex abuse survivors, and women priests coming to Rome "to celebrate with my fellow priests," as one told Catholic News Service.

In addition to arguing why celibacy shouldn't be required of priests, the letter (read English translation here) does give an interesting view into what life is like when you are a priest's lover. Based on the possible outcomes she lists, it doesn't sound fun.

As a woman, I never understood why a woman would ever be "the other woman." I couldn't live with knowing that I was hurting a fellow woman, but beyond basic morals and the Ten Commandments, the relationship would be difficult and strained.

After reading this, I can't understand why they would want to be "the other woman" when a man is "married" to the church either. They might say I've never been in that situation--true--but I would never want to get in this situation.

Just listen to the author of the letter describe her five-year relationship with a man who could never treat her as an equal (from NPR): "I think I represented a stain on his church dress," Salomone says. "He wanted to see me, but after seeing me he was not happy with his decision. He always tried to find a way to go away. I wasn't seen as a woman, I was seen as a danger, as a sin."

Considering Pope Benedict isn't likely to strike celibacy from the rules in his final events for the Year of the Priest, my advice for those lovers of priests: If he isn't willing to quit the collar for you, he's probably just not that into you.