He’s one familiar to many viewers: Fr. Michael Manning.
A Roman Catholic priest who has admitted to a past sexual relationship with a second cousin has taken a leave of absence from his ministry, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino confirmed Wednesday.
The Rev. Michael Manning, who says he had the relationship with Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski, has stepped aside for the time being from Wordnet, a worldwide Catholic television ministry based in San Bernardino, according to John Andrews, a spokesman for the diocese.
Andrews said that often when a priest engages in misconduct of such magnitude, he is encouraged to take time away from his religious service to reflect on how it happened and how he will move forward.
“And that was something that we and Father Manning mutually came to, (that) it would be good for him to take a leave of absence,” Andrews said.
Manning could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
He recently admitted to the relationship when asked about copies of correspondence between him and Kotowski that seemingly showed the two ending an intimate relationship more than two years ago.
He said he and Kotowski are no longer sexually involved with each other.
The 70-year-old priest is a member of the Society of the Divine Word, a missionary community with thousands of members throughout the world.
Andrews said a local official with the group was unavailable to comment Wednesday.
Manning in 2006 was presented with the Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice Cross, which means “for the Church and the Holy Father.”
Bishop Gerald Barnes of the diocese requested the award for meritorious service from Pope Benedict XVI, for Manning’s ministry in the Catholic Church.
Andrews said both Barnes and the Society of the Divine Word have religious authority over Manning.
Barnes was not available for comment Wednesday, according to Andrews.
Manning has a TV show called “The Word in the World.” The program can be seen weekly on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
UPDATE: The woman involved says they considered marriage. And: she hopes that publicizing this will get the church to reconsider its teaching on celibacy:
“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 said Wednesday during a telephone interview with The Herald. “Is it right for all people?”
Read more from an interview with her here.