A leading Roman Catholic cleric who is regularly voted one of France's most popular personalities has shocked the country by admitting he has had casual sex.
Abbe Pierre, a member of the French Resistance during World War II and a fervent defender of human rights, made the confession in his latest book, titled My God -- Why?
The 93-year-old Abbe's carnal confession -- amounting to just a few lines tucked away in his "meditations" -- has exploded like a bombshell in the Catholic community, which has long regarded him as a living saint.
Abbe Pierre, an outspoken critic of Rome's intransigence over clerical celibacy, caused a minor storm last year when in a previous book he admitted having a long but platonic passion for an unnamed choir singer who had the "voice of an angel."
What has stunned France's Catholics almost as much as the fact that he succumbed to temptations of the flesh is that his sexual relations with women were conducted in a "transient" manner.
Explaining that he had decided to devote his life to God and other people from an early age, he wrote: "I took a vow of chastity that didn't take away the power of desire and it has happened that I have given in to this in a transient way. But I have never had regular liaisons because I never let sexual desire take root.
"I felt that to be fully satisfied, sexual desire had to be expressed in a loving, tender and confident relationship while such a relationship was closed to me because of the choice I had made in life."
The Abbe also expressed his support of women priests and gay couples being allowed to have children or adopt.
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