I was a good priest. I was very kind and understanding and I became a good listener to people. Being a priest enriched my life no end. To have people trust you and want to talk to you and to confide in you was a great privilege and I look back on all those days with great pride and affection.
I left because the real me never got to walk in the clear air. The real me got suppressed in the celibate system. My relational, sexual self never got to go walkabout in the world and so discover the way I wanted to be. I was kidnapped as a child, something Mark Hederman also experienced, as he told Gay Byrne in an interview one time.
A few years ago I was a guest of my childhood friend, David, in a balcony box at Old Trafford cricket ground in Manchester for a Test Match day between England and Australia. There I met a lovely man, a retired hotelier, and when I told him who I was and that I used to be a priest, he replied, ‘Oh I don’t like the sound of that…used to be a priest. I think to be a priest is a wonderful vocation.’ It is.
Now, at 70, myself, retired and widowed, I look back on my whole life and I smile. I am so glad that I met Margaret and had a son, and left priesthood and came into my own home and my own life. My story is calm and peaceful and my remembrance of it fills me with gratitude for the journey I made.
But my leaving priesthood is not a repudiation of priesthood. It was simply something that I needed to do in order to be fully myself. The suppressed child needed out.
I hope that the priests of my generation find the same peace that I am finding now, and I hope the Church will learn the lessons of yesterday so as to be able to greet tomorrow and tomorrow’s world.
16 November 2017