Priest who found love now searches for work

WILMINGTON, N.C. (RNS) While burning through their savings looking for jobs, Gerry Murphy and Andrea Kanelopoulos-Murphy and their two young children were invited by a local businessman to stay in his condo this summer until they found a position.

With 10 percent unemployment in this corner of North Carolina, their story could be a common one. But the couple believe their unique marriage sometimes makes it harder to find the right workplace.

After three years in the priesthood serving a Catholic parish in Oakland, Calif., Murphy, an Irish-born Catholic, felt a tug in his heart. He wanted a family, but his vows of celibacy prevented that.

“I got ordained at 37 in 2001, and I had been in a couple of relationships before that, so the whole celibacy issue was a question for me — even on the day of my ordination,” he said.

Murphy didn’t want to betray his personal integrity — or his vows — by taking a mistress. “I know lots of people right now who are priests and in relationships — gay and straight,” he added.

The subject of married priests in the Catholic Church has been controversial for hundreds of years. That controversy returned this year after an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles admitted he had fathered two children — about the same time the Vatican released guidelines for accepting married priests from Episcopal churches in the Catholic priesthood.

Nationwide, about 80 Protestant clergy have left to become Catholic priests, according to research from Catholic University in Washington. Some Eastern Rite Catholic churches, which are loyal to Rome, ordain married men. And after 1980, the Vatican allowed Protestant clergy who converted to Catholicism to remain married to their wives.

But Murphy isn’t necessarily a supporter of married Catholic priests — the issue could cause resentment within the ranks of a majority celibate priesthood, he said, even though it might help bolster the priest shortage in the country.

When Murphy was struggling with whether or not to leave the priesthood, he weighed having a family with the risk of losing his priestly calling.

“I resolved this dilemma by recognizing that my journey into ordained ministry was a necessary and enriching part of my spiritual formation,” he said, “but there was more I was called to experience and explore in my life.”

The rest of this fascinating story is available on Religion News Service.

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