New Support Group for Women Involved with Priests

Catholic World News
January 20, 2003

LONDON - An English support group for women who have had affairs with Catholic priests is to open a branch in Scotland because it has been overwhelmed by calls from north of the border.

Organizers of the Sonflowers group say they have been forced to open an exclusively Scottish help group after being "inundated" with calls from Scots, including two women who then discovered they were having affairs with the same priest.

They claim some of the calls were from Scottish women who had had children with priests.

The group's founder, Adrianna Alsworth, who has two daughters by an English priest, told the Glasgow Herald: "The Church in Scotland wants to pretend this is not a major issue and that it is indeed very rare. But it's only the sad cases which hit the headlines and as long as there's no publicity, the Church is happy to turn a blind eye."

Alsworth continued, "I know of many older priests who have been in long-term relationships which are an open secret in their parishes. Sadly, all the stress and responsibility is placed on the women and it's a heavy burden to bear. If the relationship becomes public, it's the women, the Church's silent mistresses, who get the blame."

Father Steve Gilhooly, a parish priest from Edinburgh, told the paper a number of his fellow priests had had relationships which forced them to cease active ministry. And he claimed the Church was guilty of ignoring women involved in these cases.

He said, "Some people within the Church will see them as women who have deflowered chaste priests and should be blamed or ostracized for that. However, I would say that most ordinary, decent Catholics will nowadays be a lot more humane and realize that relationships do happen and that's part of life."

However, Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said he had not even heard of Sonflowers.

He told The Herald, "I think it is unfair to claim this is a widespread problem. If there are all these women and priests out there having affairs, they are doing very well to keep it a secret."

He continued, "The bishops expect priests to maintain high standards and as in any walk of life, there will be some who fail to do so."

In 1996, it emerged that Scotland Bishop Roddy Wright of Argyll and the Isles, had run off with Kathleen McPhee, his housekeeper. It later came out he had fathered a son with another woman in 1981.


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