— MONTEREY, Calif. - A Roman Catholic priest in California has admitted to a sexual and romantic relationship with a county school official who is also his second cousin.
The Rev. Michael Manning, 70, confirmed to the San Bernardino Sun that he and Nancy Kotowski, 59, had been involved romantically. The newspaper contacted Manning to question him about letters it obtained that indicated he broke off the relationship with Kotowski more than two years ago.
The Roman Catholic Church requires its priests to take a vow of celibacy and forbids them from all sexual activity.
"The reality is I was living two lives: one as a priest who was vowed to celibacy and another life as a sexually active man in our sexual intimacy," Manning wrote, according to the letter The Sun obtained.
"The burden of deception in hotels, and with the community with whom I work and live has become overwhelming," he wrote.
Manning runs a television ministry based in San Bernadino called Wordnet, which he started in 1978. His weekly show is called "The Word in the World," and is broadcast nationally on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. He has taken a leave of absence from the ministry, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino told The Sun.
Kotowski has been the Monterey County Superintendent of Schools since Jan. 2007, according to KSBW-TV. Manning is the first cousin of Kotowski's mother, KSBW reported.
'I've done wrong'
Kotowski told KSBW Wednesday that the couple seriously considered getting married. But Manning ended their relationship two years ago because he didn't want to continue violating his priesthood and sinning.
"We've been such good friends and there's a deep love we have for each other," Manning told The Sun. "The sexuality was secondary. It's very hard when you care for someone, but I love my priesthood more. I admit the fact of my sinfulness. I've done wrong. That's why I've stopped."
Kotowski told The Monterey Herald Wednesday that they are now celibate, in support of Manning's vocation. "It's a struggle, but we know God is calling to us, so we honor that," she told the paper.
Kotowski said Wednesday that she hopes their situation renews the debate on celibacy of clergy members.
'Kindred spirits and soul mates'
"The reality is that we love the church, we're committed to the church, but I'm hoping a dialogue will open up (about) obligatory celibacy, the whole question of celibacy," she told the Herald. "Is it right for all people?"
Referring to the apparent conflicts presented by their relationship, Kotowski said, "We're soul mates, and in any human relationship, especially one of over 30 years, you reach a decision-making point, and our relationship reached that point."
In the interview with the Herald, Kotowski said Manning left for the seminary when she was three, and that she didn't see him again until she was in her late 20s.
She also said that both families are aware of their relationship, according to The Herald.
"My family knows him and loves Father Mike. My family knows of our closeness and our relationship, and they're very happy we have each other on our life journey," she told The Herald.
"They know we're kindred spirits and soul mates."