*Leon Laclau shared his life, and often, his bed, with Marga over 20 years — all while serving as a Catholic priest in a town in the French Pyrenees.

His clerical leadership eventually expelled him, prompting protests from his flock and inspiring other priests and their partners around France to speak out about long-hidden love lives, and to press the Church to abandon its insistence on celibacy.

They say the chastity rule has fed the persistent, profound decline in the numbers of European and American priests. More influential voices are joining them as scandals involving sexual abuse and pedophilia spread across parishes around Europe.

The Vatican rejects any link between celibacy and sex abuse and shows no sign it intends to loosen its rules. Instead, church leaders are likely to continue a don’t ask-don’t tell policy of ignoring priestly relationships, as long as they cause no harm.

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