Former Roman Catholic Bishop James P. Shannon, saying he couldn’t cope with the ecclesiastical system, is now learning to cope with a wife. The first American bishop whose marriage has become public married thrice-wed Ruth C. Wilkinson August 2 in a brief Protestant ceremony in the study of the Rev. H. Hugh Kelly, pastor of the First Christian Church of Endicott, New York. The bride is a member of the Disciples of Christ.

Dr. Shannon (as he now prefers to be called) has a doctorate in history from Yale. He resigned as auxiliary bishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis over the birth-control issue (see June 20 issue, page 34) before his marriage. General Catholic reaction was sadness and shock coupled with a call for charity and prayers.

The National Catholic Reporter devoted almost four full pages to the case, including a 7,000-word interview with Shannon, an articulate and progressive cleric who has championed numerous liberal causes. The NCR said Shannon struggled through a year of vacillation and pressure that began with his private dissent on the use of artificial contraceptives and culminated in his realization that “I was a source of embarrassment to my superiors.”

The church automatically excommunicated Shannon. He said he doesn’t intend to become an “underground cleric” and will hang on, hoping for a change of Vatican heart in his lifetime allowing priests to marry. The newlyweds live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the groom is now vice-president of small, nondenominational St. John’s College.

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