The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Wednesday, April 6, 2011
San Bernardino Priest Admits to Affair with Monterey Schools Chief Kin - Victims respond
Statement by Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach, SNAP Western Regional Director, (949) 322-7434
Already, some are minimizing the abusive sexual misconduct by Fr. Michael Manning, who recently admitted a sexual relationship with his cousin, who is Monterey County's Superintendent of Schools.
Assuming the woman was a Catholic, a highly educated, allegedly celibate man who holds the revered title Catholic priest cannot ever have truly consensual sex with a congregant. Catholics have been raised since birth to believe priests are God's representatives on earth, can forgive our sins, and can turn wafers and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Priests always hold an exalted position, and when they have any sexual involvement with parishioners, it is always wrong and hurtful.
There is an inherent power imbalance between clergy and church members. It is much like a doctor-patient or therapist-client relationship, where any sexual contact is expressly forbidden. It's the bishop's duty to help congregants understand this.
Considering the recent criminal allegations of sexual abuse in both the San Bernardino and Monterey Dioceses, the bishops of both areas must be especially vigilant to protect all churchgoer, children and adults. Anything else is reckless and dangerous.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Priest admits to affair with schools chief kin
Letters point to end of relationship more than two years ago
By JOSH DULANEY
San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 04/06/2011 01:42:56 AM PDT
A renowned Roman Catholic priest with a worldwide television ministry based in San Bernardino admitted to breaking his vow of celibacy and having a sexual relationship with his second cousin, who is Monterey County's superintendent of schools.
The Rev. Michael Manning confirmed he had the relationship with Nancy Kotowski. Manning made the admission after being questioned about correspondence that appeared to point to them breaking off the relationship more than two years ago.
"We've been such good friends and there's a deep love we have for each other," Manning, 70, said. "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, 59, would spoke briefly about her relationship with Manning.
"Father Mike Manning is a very dear and close friend of mine," Kotowski said Monday. "Our friendship has grown over 30 years, and we share a deep commitment of faithful and dedicated life of service in our respective work. I have nothing more to publicly say about this personal and private matter."
Manning started the nonprofit Wordnet, a Catholic television ministry in 1978. Wordnet's programs are filmed and edited in the ministry's San Bernardino studio.
His TV show, "The Word in the World," is shown weekly on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Manning has appeared as a guest on national TV shows, including "Larry King Live."
Manning, who formerly led St. Anthony Parish in San Bernardino, is a member of the Society of the Divine Word,missionary community with 6,000 members in 62 countries.
In 2006, he was presented with the Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice Cross, which means "for the Church and the Holy Father."
Bishop Gerald Barnes, head of the Diocese of San Bernardino, requested the award for meritorious service from Pope Benedict XVI for Manning's decades of service in the Catholic Church.
Manning teaches at retreats and on religious tours throughout the world.
His ministry's website at www.wordnet.tv features teaching materials for sale. Visitors are invited to donate to the ministry, which the website says needs 800 donors giving about $25 a month to cover all expenses.
The website offers a pamphlet written by Kotowski titled "Dealing With Teenagers." Manning wouldn't say how long he and Kotowski were sexually involved. The correspondence appears to reveal a conflicted priest struggling to remain faithful to his calling.
"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 in one piece of correspondence.
He told Kotowski that he battled hypocrisy, and deception was heavy on his heart as he feared people finding out about the relationship.
"The burden of deception in hotels, and with the community with whom I work and live has become overwhelming," he wrote.
Manning said he and Kotowski realized their sexual relationship was wrong.
"I think we're all sinners and I'm not above admitting we're sinners ... " he said. "The important factor is what do you do after you sin? Can you accept forgiveness? And I've been able to accept forgiveness for what I've done."
Manning said he is convinced of the importance and beauty of celibacy, and he told key staff members at Wordnet about the matter.
Going forward with the ministry is "probably going to be very awkward" he said and he is considering taking a break.
John Andrews, spokesman for the diocese, said Manning is a pioneer in Catholic television and the diocese supports him as he moves ahead.
"It's unfortunate that this has happened and that is not the conduct that we expect from the priests and it's not consistent with the vows a priest takes," Andrews said. "At the same time, in our faith, you always have an opportunity to seek forgiveness from God and reconciliation. Father Manning has done that and we support him in that 100 percent."
Manning said that before being questioned about the correspondence, he discussed the matter with his confessor.
He said he will ask supporters for their understanding and their prayers.
"That's the neat thing with Jesus, there can be the chance of starting again," Manning said.
Monterey County Herald staff writer Claudia Meléndez Salinas contributed to this report.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests