Wednesday, 30 November 2016



Father Ian Hellyer is a Roman Catholic priest – but far from being celibate, he's a father. Not just to a couple of children, either: in true Roman Catholic fashion, Father Ian has lots of them – nine, in fact, ranging from 18-year-old Clare to seven-month-old Rose – taking in Teresa (17), Angela (15), Martha (11), John (nine), Luke (seven), Simeon (four) and Gregory (two) in between.

Ian (45) hasn't done all this on his own, naturally: his wife Margaret (43) has been heavily involved too. And yes, he agrees genially over a cup of tea at his cluttered family home, his lifestyle does surprise a lot of people. Just the other day he was wheeling Rose's buggy into a church before a service, clerical collar visible, when a whole row of elderly Catholic ladies turned to stare at him. "They had this mixture of delight and horror on their faces – delight at the baby, and horror that she belonged to me," he says.

This time last year, Ian was an Anglican priest, and he and Margaret and their children lived in a large Victorian vicarage in Devon. The house, and the life, seemed to have been made for them: they had six bedrooms and two staircases. There was a huge garden and plenty of friends for the children in the surrounding villages.

It all seemed rosy, but it wasn't: because deep inside, Ian – who was ordained into the Anglican priesthood in 1995 – was having doubts about whether he was in the right church. "I felt like a fish out of water," he explains. "The Church of England was making decisions that seemed more to do with the world than with the fundamentals of Christianity. The Church of England was changing its mind about everything all the time. Decision-making seemed to be all about politics, rather than what I felt it should be about, which was God's will."

He had always been close to the Catholic church, because Margaret – they married 19 years ago after meeting as students at Lancaster University – is a Catholic, and the couple have raised their children across both denominations. "We'd go to church twice on a Sunday – once to Ian's church, and once to the Catholic church," says Margaret. When the pope came to Britain, the Hellyers went to hear him celebrate mass in Birmingham – and that, says Ian, was pivotal. "Everything fell into place that day," he says. "I knew the Catholic church was where I belonged."

In the past, Anglican priests who made the switch to Catholicism could become priests only if they weren't married. But in 1995 the Vatican changed the rules, and then two years ago it established a new organisation – the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham – into which married Anglican priests could be ordained as Catholics after converting.

With that mechanism in place, leaving Anglicanism seemed a lot more attractive – Ian could leave his church but continue his ministry, despite having a wife and children. Surely, though, that meant the Catholic church was doing exactly what Ian had criticised the Anglican church for doing – changing the rules to suit itself? "For me, the celibacy issue is a discipline – it's not a fundamental tenet, and it was fundamental tenets that I felt were up for grabs in the Church of England."

"Not many people realise this, but the Eastern rite Catholic church, which is in full communion with Rome, has a married clergy. Celibacy isn't a core issue in the way, for example, that the bodily resurrection or the virgin birth are core issues – and these were the sorts of things I felt Anglicans were sometimes unclear about."

But the switch was far from simple: Catholic priests are paid a tiny stipend, and there's no budget to support a priest with a family – let alone one with nine children.

"Lots of our friends were worried about us because it was difficult to see how we'd survive financially if Ian became a priest," says Margaret. "But we both believed this was the right way, the way God wanted us to go, so we thought: the Lord will provide."

That's easy enough to say, not so easy to live out in practice. Many of Ian's former colleagues in the Church of England preferred to stay put until their children were older and he says he can understand why that is. "We knew it was a leap of faith – but we decided to leap."

Telling his Anglican parishioners wasn't easy but, he says, most understood. "I didn't feel guilty about going, but there was a great deal of sadness," he says. They were given a few months' grace to stay on at the vicarage but by the end of the summer, they knew had to leave.

I an and Margaret worried about the effect on their children. "They loved the vicarage, they had friends nearby, and suddenly there was all this uncertainty," says Margaret. "Where would we live? What would we live on? It was very unsettling for them."

The Hellyers had always been frugal but now the lack of money was a much scarier reality. "I remember going to the cash and carry to buy large quantities of pasta, flour, rice and lentils, and wondering how long our savings would last," says Ian. "Meanwhile, Margaret was getting larger and larger, as the time was getting closer for the new baby to be born."

By last spring Ian had converted and was studying for the Catholic priesthood, travelling to London one day a week to study at Allen Hall seminary in Chelsea. But one day in May, he couldn't make it. "I had to phone and explain that my wife had gone into labour," he says. "I don't think there can have been many calls like that to a Catholic seminary through the years!"

A few weeks later, with newborn Rose joining all the other Hellyers for the occasion, Ian was ordained – and told that a job had been found for him as chaplain at the University of Plymouth. What is more, the bishop gave him the happy news that a five-bedroom house beside a church in central Plymouth was being made available – and that they could move in right away.

Today that house is a bustling home overflowing with children and toys and schoolbooks (Margaret homeschools four of the children). Ian agrees that, yes, in a church whose leaders have little direct experience of family life, he perhaps does have another perspective to offer – but he is modest about whether an example like his could prompt the Vatican to rethink its rules on celibacy. "I'm happy to be a good witness of how the married priesthood could work, but I don't have a sense that raising it as an issue is my calling in the church." he says. "I'm happy to trust the pope to take the decision."

He says he has always been grateful to his new bishop and the seminary rector for being clear about where his first loyalties lie. "They both said to me that being a father and a husband came ahead of being a priest," he says. But he says he would never want to confuse the roles of spiritual and actual fatherhood. "I wouldn't want to baptise my own children, for example," he says. "My role that day was to be my family's father, not their priest."

Their new house, although not as grand as the old vicarage, does have one advantage: a door that leads from the sitting room on to the altar of the adjoining church. Sometimes, the whole family troops through and Ian says Mass for all 11 of them. As he does – and especially over the next few days, he says – his thoughts will go to the Christmas story. "I think of St Joseph, who guided his family through a difficult time, and always tried to follow God's will," he says.

"This has been an eventful year for us – but in the end, God did indeed provide."


Above proves that optional celibacy works.

And no word of any snowballing or felching :-)


  1. Good luck to him. Keep it clean Pat, no need for the filth again.

    1. Just making the point - how healthy and open it all is - in comparison to what we have been looking at.

    2. Fine Pat, but I don't think that point needed 'making' in the context of this otherwise inspiring story.

    3. I agree wholeheartedly: an inspiring story let down by the obscene and vulgar references to gay sex by Pat. Grow up Pat please. You are not in the schoolyard.

    4. I agree. Especially as repeating what seems to be an inaccurate story appears to be rather unwholesome.

  2. let him get on with his life, just wait until they have all these teens, he will need the patience of Jove God bless him.
    I think if we had a referendum, most would agree with no celibacy.

    1. The patience of Job I think you mean. Jove has always been notoriously impatient.

  3. I don't like the line
    A whole row of elderly ladies, just how old does one have to be called elderly
    I'm an older woman, a widow, have a man friend( widower) and living life to the full.
    Suppose I should be glad you didn't say auld buddy's
    Anyway today's blog is a no Naughty comment day
    May God bless and keep them safe
    And if they need extra cash there is always Family tax credits...just like many others have to resort to.

  4. Most of the Anglican clergy who joined the church of Rome didn't agree with women or gay priests . So they came to Rome and kissed the popes ring and he welcomed them to join his merry band where gays arnt welcome and women are only for cleaning and making tea . Are these men really assets to any church ? It seems the Anglican church have done quite well without them and nobody seems to be mourning there departure

  5. Also no mention that it is the height of irresponsibility to have nine children in our overcrowded world!

    1. You raise a question worthy of debate.

      Of course the Catholic Church teaches that EVERY sexual act must be open to procreation.

      And people like Rory Coyle and Sean Brady have been teaching that for years.

      Even "Onanism" or masturbation they SAY is a mortal sin.

    2. The thought also went through my head while reading it. Also, how reckless converting and joining the Ordinariate without means or support. I expect the British taxpayer is now funding his University Chaplaincy job... like Fr Dallat.

      Also, an article from May 2015 regarding another priestly-fraudster-come-dirty-old-bugger entering the Ordinariate.

    3. I would be very interested to hear from this couple if they don't use 'artificial' contraception. Obviously a couple can still use 'natural' family planning. My mom taught this method, and even as a child I could see it was bizarrely unnatural. It seems so obvious now that a woman will most want sex when she is most likely to get pregnant, which is the exact time you have to abstain!
      Incidentally reading the above article ir seems sex ir a relationship didn't come into it at all and the priest entered a civil partnership simply to enable someone else to stay in the UK

  6. I left priesthood because I could not commit to celibacy, it was my error and i stand by it. I have been laicised since. When I read about the likes of rory and the other crowd in maynooth i get pissed off that they are allowed to desecrate the sacraments ad hoc. Then when you read a story like the one above, one does wonder why the Church in its broken nature continues to dilute the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Pissed off and angry Priest, because i will always be a priest.

    1. I'm so sorry 10.33, it's not your fault at all and you are right to be pissed off
      It's all ours, the laity, for allowing the church to dictate to us
      What can we do...I wish I knew
      Are you in touch with Pat, talking could help you understand all the mess
      For yes a mess it is, after reading all the disgusting stuff about Armagh led by an abuser he is making children keep stumpy.
      I will pray for you and all those forced into celibacy against nature

    2. 10 25 Shut up
      I just knew you would stick in your neb
      People are allowed to make their own decisions in life regarding how they use their sexual desires...except priests of course
      It's long past the time to pull the plug on that one

  7. Sorry Pat, I know you didn't write the article
    But I do resent all this
    Old Biddy slang.
    Non celebate over 70 year old

    1. Sorry about that.

      I would see you as a wise and experienced lady :-)

    2. I have gotten a hellava lot wiser since meeting you on here, Pat
      Thanks for your very enlightening blogs

  8. 10.12 You are quite wrong to say that most Anglican Clergy joined the Catholic Church because of the Ordination of women and their opposition to gay clergy. They crossed over primarily because of the Ordination of women, gay clergy did not enter into it so you are quite wrong to say that. I know because I attended the Ordination of some of these men in 1997 who I am friends with. There were married clergy with children, married clergy without children, single clergy and single clergy who happened to be gay.

    The next batch to cross over recently objected to the Ordination of Women Bishops. They wanted to keep their Anglican traditions, Anglican worship and liturgy. So Pope Benedict allowed them to become the Ordinarite of Our Lady of Walsingham whilst being in communion with Rome.

    I can see how cradle Catholics object to all these changes of rules for some and not for others and I agree. Former Anglican clergy friends who are now Catholic Priests ask the question, why didn't the second batch join back in 1996/7 when they could have left over the Ordination of women. Why wait until the objected to the Ordination of women as Bishops. However, that's for another debate.

    1. It is a CONTRADICTION that former Anglicans can have wies and children and cradle Catholic priests cannot.

      I can understand their resentment.

  9. 11 .19. Ha ha
    Yes was thinking I had the wrong J

  10. If an Anglican priest becomes RC he has to get preordained. If an RC Priest becomes Anglican orders are recognised. The story shows that celibacy is not intrinsic to Priesthood and is a piece of juridical poo. We have an Anglican priest who became RC and one lady said she would not go to confession to him. She knows this is not logical but it is how she feels. I told her not to do her head in and go to someone else.

  11. Thing about taxpayers money here
    Millions abusing taxpayers money
    He seems to open and Christian in his life.
    What about taxpayers money funding disgraceful wars.
    At least he not using many condoms made from animal products

  12. So are you saying , Pat, that a husband and wife over 50 practice abstinence as there no chance of procreation

    1. No. I am saying what the Catholuc teaching is.

      A neighbour if mine had a son at 58.

  13. There's never been any mention of snowballing or felching as you said yourself the other day. Just some random comment that halfwits starved of an intellectual life latched onto. But you broke a vow of celibacy that you made - don't you think that was wrong?

  14. I wish Ian, Margaret and their charming family every happiness and blessing!
    What always fascinated me about the Church if England was -
    How do so many very fine people adhere to a Church based on the considerably less than spiritual aspirations of Henry VIII?
    Perhaps Sean might have a valuable input here.

    1. That is a huge oversimplification of the establishment of the Church of England. Henry VIII's adulterous 'marriages' were the trigger for its establishment, but there had been a groundswell of protestant agitation in England prior to that. So Henry VIII was able to utilise that sentiment and capitalise on it to achieve his own ends. If one looks at the 39 Articles, they are a solid expression of reformed doctrine.

      How Anglo-Catholics resolve their position within the Church of England in light of this is what puzzles me.

    2. 39 Articles
      Sola Scriptural
      No Organisation, church or otherwise can survive without tradition.
      Denies Purgatory
      'It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they might be released from their sins.'?
      He was a heretic, an adulterer, a murderer, - probably a mass murderer - and en exceptional thief.
      Those who mostly followed him - Cromwell etc. Did so for personal gain rather bring God's creation to its ideal fulfilment.
      A house built on sand?
      I am no historian - Luther had legitimate grievances - indulgence scandals - but he also went his own way married etc

  15. I know a New mother at 52, big surprise for her.
    Does the Cc try to cover up that couples have sex up to 80 and maybe later, depending on health.
    What I'm trying to say that if a woman is 66 or 76 she might be led into believing she should not have sex with her husband as there is no way she could procreate....
    All I can say the CC is an ass

  16. The only way to fix this celibacy thing is no more students entering a seminary....I just wonder why so many of the young men can't see any further than their nose

  17. Pat with the greatest respect the issue in the Irish Church isn't celibacy it's integrity. As a priest or seminarian you sign up to live a celibate life. (Yes, there are a few exceptions, but the general rule is that priests are celibate.) If you don't intend to live a celibate life, don't sign up for it!

    These men are claiming to live lives they're not. They preach one thing and do another. They are lying to themselves, to the Church and to the people they're leeching a living off.

    Over the past number of months you've highlighted the problems in Maynooth of seminarians using gay dating sites, what the hell are these men doing in seminary? Why do they think it's acceptable to lie their way to priesthood. They leave a trail of destruction behind them, not only in their own lives but in others too, destroying real vocations either by causing good honest men to be expelled or by dissuading others from joining the 'gay profession' as you described it! What heterosexual man would want to join the priesthood today?

    Integrity is the issue not celibacy!

  18. When you hear anyone spoken ill of, consider the accusation doubtful if you can do so justly. ... Or change the subject of conversation, recalling that those who do not fall into sin owe it all to God's grace. - St. Francis de Sales

  19. 15.31 You protest too much about the snowballing and fetching! Are you in fact Rory or maybe his friend who wanted to have a threesome. No one has yet denied it, not Rory and not even the Editor of the Irish News who holds all the evidence. Don't you find that a tad strange? Stop this nonsense asking for proof as it insults people's intelligence. You said it was basically a half wit with no intelligence using these sexual terms. I never knew them until they appeared on this Blog, many others commenting never knew them. So how could a half wit as you claim, with no intelligence possibly know them Rory?

    1. I'm not sure Pat, how would they know them? I think you have rather missed the point.

      I did not say it was a half-wit using these terms. I said there are MANY halfwits who believe every single thing anyone chooses to post on these pages, without having the intelligence to notice the vast discrepancies in the story. And about this story, yes there are huge discrepancies in the accounts given. This needs to be addressed.

      Anyone can say anything. And for that reason the onus is on the BLOG to do its background checks. not to rely on the off-chance that someone might read it and issue a denial.

      "Stop this nonsense asking for proof". Are you kidding me? The onus is on a person publishing a story to get their facts rights, NOT on anyone else to come along and disprove it. It is quite one thing to hint at a 'rolling story' - I have always appreciated that about the blog. But there is a red line.

      And no I don't find it at all strange that the editor of the Irish News hasn't been trawling these pages. You seriously think Rory is going to read the abuse on here?

      Since denials are all the rage:

      -I am not Rory. Have never met him. I am not his alleged 'friend'. If I was, I would not be posting comments on this blog but would consider that, having nothing else to lose, I might as well take legal action. But probably he does not want to draw further attention to himself, and it is unjust for anyone to rely on that and use it as a 'carte-blanche' to defame (potentially).
      -Have never to my knowledge met a priest of Armagh diocese.
      -It is entirely possible to consider that a man has sinned gravely but nevertheless stand up for a sense of fairness in his treatment.
      -This episode has moved from RC breaking his vows to being a 'reviled pervert' on the basis of ZERO information. As a Catholic, like nearly all readers of this blog, that is not an acceptable way in which to behave.

      So now, could we have a clear statement - for the benefit of the gullible - that the information provided had one source - an anonymous poster on the blog?

      If it would help to illustrate the point, please do let me know if you would like me to create some random fictional information about one of the persons starring on the blog. We can then watch the outrage and the revulsion. And then dramatically reveal - ONLY JOKING!

      But of course I don't expect any of this to be published so I might as well just email Pat directly as no-one else will read it. Am I right? Thought so.

    2. Gosh, 20.06 what a rant! Have you something to prove? I believe, like other commentators, you are part of the Rory fan club or even Rory himself. There is only one person to put the record straight (wrong turn of phrase) but that's Rory himself. He's never denied being caught with his knickers around his ankles! Ask your friend Rory to deny it. Until then he is guilty as charged. Co. Tyrone

    3. 'Until then he is guilty as charged'. Are you pining the Middle Ages and not quite caught up with the new-fangled modern concepts of justice? Did you support the witch trials at Salem as well perhaps? As for "Co. Tyrone", come now, we are not thrown off the scent by a device as obvious as that - you must try harder:-)) Co.Offaly

  20. Optional celibacy has been discussed more or less seriously for over fifty years. This discussion has been about the possible ordination of married men. Never at any point has there been the smallest chance that priests would ever be "allowed" to marry after ordination.

  21. Celibacy is a control mechanism and a money saving exercise in the church. Why does so much of the Canon law have a secrecy clause attached.

  22. Pat, was just reading about the Priest with nine children. He said he went to a Seminary in Chelsea, is it the same place that a Seminarian claimed to have got a STD from a member of staff. I also wondered if this is Westminister's Seminary in Chelsea, if so the then current Bishop of Plymouth was a member of staff there and then rector of Chelsea. He has taken on the Priest with nine children in his diocese. The Bishop must have been aware of the gay goings on in Chelsea. Many say it was worse than Maynooth!

  23. 19.57 Never say never, if men stop going to theses seminaries, things will surely have to change
    Why do people not know that people, yes just ordinary people can initiate
    change. Priesthood is in a downward spiral
    Many mothers are now saying to their children
    Please do not go into the priesthood

    1. Ordinary people, at least those in western countries, have already initiated change: many no longer believe not just in the Church but in Christianity and in Jesus Christ. They do not regard themselves as having or needing a Saviour. To the extent they have any form of Christian belief it is that each man/woman can make his/her own rules to suit their individual preferences in life and their personal requirements, and avail (or not) of such Church services and rituals as may be convenient from time to time. In many parishes the average age of the Sunday congregation seems to be 45+. Young folks will turn up at FHC and Confirmation but on the whole stay away when outside the scope of parental supervision. So mothers are not saying to their children 'do not go into the priesthood' because the children have no interest in doing so in the first place. The fact that Christianity is ebbing from the west is recognised by the Pope in his recent new appointments to the cardinalate. Of the 13 eligible to vote in the next conclave 2/3rds are from outside the western world. The Church in the west was always going to have a hard struggle in the face of the material prosperity of its western adherents. But as long as it retained moral authority it still had the ear of ordinary people even though they might disagree with some of its teachings. But today no-one bothers to listen. Even the clergy make up their own versions of Christianity. The Catholic Church is fissured into as many factions as cracks in a badly plastered wall. But all this happened before, though in a different context: it would have been inconceivable to someone standing in the forum in Rome in 100AD that some day in the long distant future nothing would remain of Rome and its empire - the super EU - except fragmentary remnants: not the nation, or the government or the laws or the treaties or the currency or the slaves or the language or the army or the victories and the glory or the traditions or the supreme self-confidence or the unsurpassed palaces and villas, the engineering excellence, or the wealth and power that has never been equalled. Athlone Andy

  24. What are the secrecy clauses

  25. Sean or anybody
    What is the Hawkins book That gives a different perspective on life
    Met a man who says he thinks this way
    He is agnostic

  26. All I can think of is Stephen Hawking who wrote A Brief History Of Time among other things?? Also check out George Frederic Watts painting called Hope. ("Non religious search for God) Hope this helps๐Ÿ˜‡๐Ÿ™ƒ

  27. Secrecy clauses in documents such as laicization say you can not reveal the contents of the document...,.(or else!... what?)