The sudden resignation of the Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Kieran Conry – who admitted this weekend that he had failed to keep his promises of priestly celibacy – should come as no surprise to those who have followed his career.
This weekend, Conry, 63, read out at Mass a confession to his parishioners that he had been “unfaithful to his promises.”
“I would like to reassure you that my actions were not illegal and did not involve minors. As a result, however, I have decided to offer my resignation as bishop with immediate effect and will now take some time to consider my future.”
He commented that he feels “relieved” that the matter is now out in the open, saying, “It has been difficult keeping the secret. In some respects I feel very calm. It is liberating. It is a relief.”
Conry, by his own admission, has for his entire priestly career worked to downplay and even outright contradict the teaching on sexual morality of the Church he serves. He told the Mail that in his ministry he had been “very careful not to make sexual morality a priority.”
“I don’t think it got in the way of my job, I don’t think people would say I have been a bad bishop. But I can’t defend myself. I did wrong. Full stop.”
This weekend’s confession is understood to be about a relationship that he admits to having had with a woman “six years ago,” but the Daily Mail has revealed that Conry has also been currently carrying on an affair with another woman, a married mother of two and that her husband is threatening legal action against the Catholic Church of England and Wales, accusing them of a cover-up of the affair that broke up his marriage.
The second woman is a 43 year-old parishioner to whom he wrote a “love letter” earlier this month, which the Mail has obtained. The Mail adds that the two have “exchanged hundreds of text messages.”
“It’s all right to say that [your husband] did bad things, but you knew that he didn’t love you. You know (I hope) that I did. And I did, and do,” the letter said. The Mail said that based on the correspondence they had seen, the two fell “deeply in love and formed a strong emotional bond.”
The Mail said that their evidence does not necessarily “disclose a sexual relationship” with the second woman, but added that “the affair lasted more than a year” and that the bishop had admitted she had stayed “at least three nights” at the bishop’s private residence.
The Mail quoted the husband saying that Conry’s “behaviour has been appalling. He is someone capable of creating that emotion and distress without taking any interest in the effect on those going through this.” He said that he must now “fight” for the sake of his children, and has filed for divorce from his wife.
“It smacks of arrogance, and arrogance to the extent that he is prepared to have a married woman sleeping in his house, a woman with two children, and yet he is blind to the emotional effect of this. For me it has been debilitating to the extent that I have felt ill,” the man said.
The husband’s lawyer told the Mail, “My client is considering pursuing a possible High Court action against the Catholic Church because they have known for years the bishop has been having affairs. If they had taken action, he almost certainly would not have lost his marriage.”
A spokesman for the diocese has “declined to respond” to the allegations.
But a priest of a nearby diocese, who has asked not to be named, told LifeSiteNews today that Conry’s former relationship had indeed been an open secret in English Catholic circles for years. Conry, the priest said, has all but publicly denied key Catholic teachings on sexual morality for the whole length of his ecclesiastical career, “so it’s hardly a surprise.”
Indeed, Conry’s open rejection of Catholic teaching on sexual morality has long brought him to the attention of the faithful who have tried to alert his ecclesiastical superiors in Rome to the problem. As far back as 2002, when Conry was given the see of Brighton and Arundel, his relationship with an unnamed woman was common knowledge. An article that year published by the conservative web journal Christian Order quoted a London priest who said that the relationship long pre-dated Conry’s elevation to the episcopate.
“Kieran was often seen out and about with his female friend,” the article quotes the priest saying. “Everyone knew about it in the same way that everyone, including the bishops, knew about the homosexual relationship between Martin Pendergast [ex-Carmelite priest] and Julian Filochowski [Director of CAFOD, the bishops' overseas aid agency].”
Conry’s promotion of the “liberal” sexual agenda in the Catholic Church continued throughout his tenure in Brighton. In September 2013, Deacon Nick Donnelly, the former blogger at “Protect the Pope,” wrote of the brush-off Conry delivered when he was confronted with the irregularity of meeting with homosexualist activists.
The bishop had scheduled a meeting with Terrence Weldon, a leader of the notorious Soho Mass organization that staged “gay masses” in London for years, and Quest, a group that works to obtain acceptance of homosexual activity within the Church structure. The bishop told the man that the Bible “has little to say” about sexual morality.
Conry wrote, “I am also troubled that some people seem to regard sexual morality as a priority and ignore the more basic demands of the gospel. The gospel has little to say about sexual behaviour and a lot more to say about justice and charity. Yet these words appear very rarely in the letters of complaint that I receive.”
In 2011, when the nation’s Conservative party leaders were pressing to create “gay marriage,” Conry said the Church supported civil partnerships for homosexuals. According to the bishop, they “confer the same rights to gay couples as marriage, because they give better legal protection to individuals in matters including inheritance.” This was in direct opposition to the statement of the Church’s highest authorities, who wrote in 2003 that such unions could never be approved.
Last year, the far-left Catholic magazine The Tablet, quoted Conry saying that a too-uncompromising approach to the teaching on contraception in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae drove people away from the Church. The Tablet, noting that Conry had been tasked by the English and Welsh bishops’ conference with “evangelisation,” quoted him saying, “It’s important to remember that Paul VI made it quite clear you follow your conscience.” He added, “Many people may not be happy with what the Church says but it seems this is not turning people away. People make accommodation.”
He described the Church’s teaching on contraception as a “burden,” saying, “I think that there are more important issues, especially in terms of social justice.” He blamed “social problems” on “exploitation and desire for money” instead of sexual ethics.
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“Couples who, for the most part, are living good lives, trying their very best, coping with difficult circumstances, have got enough to deal with without loading more burdens on them.”
In 2010, when the country was anticipating the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI for an official state visit, Conry denied the comment from a member of the staff of the Westminster Archdiocese that Britain, with its embrace of divorce, contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, had become the “geopolitical epicentre of the Culture of Death.”
On the contrary, Conry said, everything in Britain was fine. “Pope Benedict is coming to a country where Catholicism is unusually stable, cohesive and vibrant enough in the current overall context of decline of interest in the church in Western Europe.”
He added that Pope Benedict “may well be relieved to be coming to a place where, unlike some of his other recent trips, there are no big problems for him to sort out.”
Conry, who is a leading member of the “Magic Circle” of left-leaning English bishops and was a protégé of the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, remains close to the current head of the English Catholic Church, Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
On the admission from his friend this weekend, Cardinal Nichols said, “This is a sad and painful moment. It makes clear that we are always a Church of sinners called to repentance and conversion and in need of God's mercy. All involved in this situation are much in my prayers today.”
The story broke on Saturday, just days after Cardinal Nichols issued a statement saying that a change in Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is unlikely, a response to the widespread speculation that the Church is ready to change it. Nichols declined to rule it out, saying only that such a change would require “a radical rethink” either of the teaching on marriage or the Eucharist. “I go to this synod intent on listening to what people have to say,” he added at a press conference September 23.