Author Joy Cowley remains resolute in her support of former bishop Charles Drennan. PHOTO/FILE

MARCUS ANSELM

marcus.anselm@age.co.nz

Wairarapa author Joy Cowley wants the Catholic Church to make marriage an option for priests because “most priests don’t cope with celibacy”.

Cowley is best known worldwide as an author of children’s books. She is also very active in the Catholic church.

The 83-year-old leads spiritual retreats and contributes a column to the CathNews website.

This week, she repeated her support for Palmerston North bishop Charles Drennan, urging his congregation to campaign for his reinstatement.

Drennan, 59, resigned from his position following an investigation into a complaint of unacceptable behaviour of a sexual nature.

He had been in his Palmerston North role for the past eight years.

He has also stepped down as church liaison with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse.

After Drennan’s resignation, Cowley criticised the church policy of mandatory celibacy and supported the cleric.

She said there was “a great feeling of loss” in Palmerston North as Drennan was an “exceptional bishop”.

“He was so caring for the people, he was highly intelligent, very well respected.

“And he made a mistake, he didn’t commit a crime. And he’s paid a very heavy price.

“And I would like to encourage the people in the Palmerston North diocese to campaign to have him reinstated.”

She said the Pope “had made a mistake accepting his resignation”.

“It wasn’t a crime. He broke a vow. But I have a made a vow not to judge anyone.”

Cowley said her major concern was that the church “changes and makes marriage an option for priests.”

She said the confidential stories shared on the retreats she ran were of priests finding celibacy “very, very hard”.

Her husband Terry Coles is a former Catholic priest.

“For over 30 years now, the other side of my life, is that I facilitate retreats and workshops. And I hear stories I can’t repeat because I hold them in confidence. And I hear that most priests don’t cope with celibacy.

“They find it very, very hard. And, you know, priests are usually loving men. And I wonder how they feel about taking a vow of celibacy and thinking to themselves ‘my DNA ends here’.

“The instinct for progeny is as strong in men as the instinct for motherhood is in some women. And it’s cruel, I think. And an unnatural life can lead to unnatural consequences.”

Cowley said the vow of celibacy was established in medieval times to stop priests bequeathing church property.

She said that financial motivations did not “do much for spiritual growth”

“When a religion gets into politics and finance, that’s when it loses its heart.

“Over the centuries, those problems have been hidden. And for centuries, those problems have been hidden. It’s not that they’ve been absent, just that they’ve been hidden. And now they’re very public.”