Activist priest to leave church
The Rev. Frank Cordaro is on leave because he says he cannot keep a vow of celibacy.
By DAKARAI I. AARONS
The Rev. Frank Cordaro, a Des Moines priest and noted peace activist, has begun a leave of absence – the first step in his desire to leave the priesthood.
In an e-mail to supporters, Cordaro, 52, said he decided to leave the priesthood after 18 years because he could no longer keep his vow of celibacy.
Des Moines Catholic Diocese spokeswoman Anne Marie Cox confirmed the information in Cordaro’s e-mail and said that his leave of absence began Friday.
Cordaro is known in Iowa and nationally for his activism – a cause that at times sent him to jail and put him at odds with his bishop and his duties to his parishioners.
Reached Monday evening, he affirmed the statements made in his e-mail. He declined to elaborate.
“I would stay a priest if I thought I could and keep the promise of celibacy,” he said.
In his e-mail Cordaro wrote that he loved his priestly duties but that he decided to leave the priesthood because “I cannot ask our bishops to be honest and truthful if I can’t be honest and truthful myself.”
After a heart attack in 2001, he said he looked at his needs in personal relationships.
“My need for intimacy, companionship, a soul mate and partner is too strong for me to remain celibate. It is best for my health, heart and my soul for me to be free from this promise,” Cordaro wrote.
“After 18 years of priestly life, I’ve come to the painful realization that I just can’t do it.”
He wrote that celibacy is the biggest reason men leave the priesthood, but in his e-mail, he did not criticize that policy.
According to Cordaro’s e-mail, Des Moines Bishop Joseph Charron advised Cordaro that when a man leaves the priesthood for this reason, his decision must be made twice, once while he is in the priesthood and once outside to confirm the first decision.
Cordaro wrote that he is sad because of the grief his decision will bring to family members and the Catholic community, but said that he also has hope for the future of the Roman Catholic Church.
Cordaro intends to remain at the Des Moines Catholic Worker, a group that he helped found, and devote more of his time to resistance and peacemaking efforts. The group serves the poor and directs peace and justice efforts.
Cordaro has been arrested numerous times and has served a total of 44 months of jail time for his activism.