The following comes from a January 16 Sacramento Bee article by Marcos Breton:
It’s been more than 20 years since 94-year old Francis Quinn was bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
Quinn might have been a journalist. He might have married one of the eighth-grade girls he remembers from his youth in Napa. He might have fathered children. Instead, in a practice largely discarded by the church, Quinn went into a seminary as a ninth-grader. He was just 13 when he left his family and dedicated his life to the service of God.
He was barely going through puberty when he committed to a life of celibacy.
Last September, Quinn wrote an op-ed for The New York Times about how Pope Francis might renew the church by shaking it up even further than he already has. It was a graceful piece that hinted at the journalist Quinn might have become. He found himself advocating for his church to ease up on the requirements that all priests be celibate.
“It’s not psychologically healthy for a priest to be celibate just because the church requires it,” Quinn said. “The church used to put young men in a closed seminary when they were in puberty, away from their families, where they only go home at Christmas and in the summer. In its wisdom, the church has closed most of its high school seminaries.”
When asked how Quinn’s life might have been different had he gone into the seminary when he was older than 13, he paused. His eyes welled up. His voice dropped to barely above a whisper. “If I hadn’t gone to the seminary at 13, I would have never gone in,” he said. “Once I was in high school, I think I would have met a nice girl.
Quinn wept softly and briefly as he imagined the life he believes God chose for him. Then he sounded like the spiritual leader who was so well known in Sacramento. “Not that I regret it because I could say it’s been a happy life,” he said. “Very happy.”
Quinn wants priests to marry because he couldn’t. He doesn’t think it will happen soon, but he’d also like his church to consider ordaining women as priests.
He wants the church to stop denying the Eucharist to divorced Catholics who have remarried.
These were thoughts he never had when he led the church in Sacramento. “When you’re a bishop, you barely have time to think,” he said.
Now, with nothing but time to think, Quinn wants “ a church where all the people are together.”