A Catholic priest in Australia has publicly admitted that he has been married for a year and claimed "there are more like me."
"So I've fallen in love and I've got married and it's outside of most people's awareness, but I'm sure people within the church could have had a suspicion," Father Kevin Lee told Australia's 7News, a partner of NBC News.
Lee, a priest for 20 years, told his congregation that he had been living a secret double life with his wife Josephina, breaking the Church's rule that priests should remain celibate.
He said there were others like him around the world.
"That's one of the reasons that's motivated me to make public my admission that I'm one of those people who's been a pretender: To draw to the attention of the public that there are more like me, in fact most of them," he said.
Lee said he had made little effort to hide his relationship and suspected people within the church hierarchy knew about his marriage.
He and Josephina met in the Philippines and married in secret.
As recently as this week, some of his parishioners in Glenmore Park, Sydney, said they knew nothing about his relationship, Lee said. He said he pitied what he called "sacrificing" priests around the world who were denying themselves a relationship.
"I feel sorry for them, I really do, but I think they need to admit they are not being led properly," he told the television news program. "I think celibacy has to go as a prerequisite for being a minister in the Catholic religion," he added.
In an update to its original report, 7News reported that Lee had been removed from his position as parish priest and then excommunicated by the church.
The head of the diocese, Bishop Anthony Fisher, denied Lee's claim that most priests live double lives.
"As Father Kevin is aware, by his actions he can no longer operate as a priest and as a result I will immediately be appointing an administrator to Padre Pio parish," Fisher said in a statement.
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