As doubts about the Church’s infallibility had become more and more obsessive, I had become more and more certain that I would have to leave the priesthood, and perhaps the Church, sooner or later.
Meanwhile, I continued as best I could with the routine duties of the priesthood. Was it not hypocritical to each the doctrines of a church whose mission I was internally doubting? How could I advise penitents in confession to obey the rulings of a Church whose wisdom and authority I was myself questioning?
I saw the Archbishop on the 26th and told him that I could not continue as a priest because I no longer believed in Catholic doctrines; I did not even have faith in God, but could continue praying only in the way that someone stranded on a mountainside might cry out for help without knowing that there was anyone within earshot.
[Later] I then explained how as a student I had been dissatisfied with the accounts given in the textbooks of how we know that there is a God, and that faith began to seem to be a sacrifice of integrity rather than a virtue. I had papered over this difficulty with an existentialist type of approach, on the basis of which I had been ordained.
So the transition from priest to layman happened, in the end, very swiftly. It was within a week of receiving the official rescript from Rome that I took up my duties as a lecturer at Exeter and Trinity…
When I had been laicized, I had not been released from the Church’s law of celibacy. Hence, the date of my marriage was also the date of my–automatic-excommunication from the Church.
A. Kenny, A Path From Rome (Oxford 1986), 189,192, 196, 204,207.
This is a revealing window into the theological priorities of Rome. Losing faith in God wasn’t an automatically excommunicable offense. Although he was no longer a believer, he was still a member in good standing.
No, the truly inexcusable transgression was for him to marry a woman–even though by this time he’d formally and officially left the priesthood.
He was excommunicated on a technicality, for getting married.
Now, from my warped perspective as a Protestant, I rather think that being a Christian ought to be minimal condition for membership in a Christian church. (I’m talking about functioning adults, right now, not little kids or the mentally incompetent.)
But you can see how hopelessly skewed my priorities are. If Kenny had been an atheistic bachelor, he’d still belong to the One True Church–but for him to marry a woman, even though he was now a layman, is utterly intolerable!
One wonders what his ecclesiastical standing would be had he split the difference by having a mistress–or maybe a boyfriend.