RELIGION
04/08/2011 02:24 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2011

Michael Manning, TV Priest, Takes Leave Of Absence After Affair With Cousin

A Catholic TV priest has taken a leave of absence after admitting to a sexual affair with his second cousin.

According to the San Bernardino Sun, which first reported the relationship, Michael Manning, 70, will be leaving Wordnet, the worldwide television ministry he founded in San Bernardino in 1978, to reflect on his relationship with Monterey Schools Superintendent Nancy Kotowski.

Manning, who claims to no longer have a sexual relationship with his cousin, said he has sought and received forgiveness from God. "That's the neat thing with Jesus. There can be the chance of starting again," Manning said in an interview with the Sun.

He admitted to the affair after the Sun obtained a series of correspondence between the lovers.

"The reality is I was living two lives: one as a priest who was vowed to celibacy and another life as a sexually active man in our sexual intimacy," Manning wrote in one letter. The pair allegedly ended their physical relationship more than two years ago.

Meanwhile, Kotowski told the Monterey Herald that she believes she and the priest are "soul mates" and she hopes their story will inspire discussion about the role of celibacy within the Catholic church. "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.

Manning also hosts a weekly television show, "A Word in the World," on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. While network spokesman John Casoria would not confirm whether Manning's show would be suspended, he told the Sun that "we're obviously surprised, and we pray for Manning in this situation."