A Roman Catholic priest with a worldwide television ministry based in San Bernardino County has admitted to having a sexual relationship with his cousin, the Monterey County schools superintendent.
The Rev. Michael Manning confirmed by phone that he had the relationship with Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski, when questioned about copies of correspondence sent to the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper that appeared to point to the two breaking off the relationship more than two years ago.
"We've been such good friends and there's a deep love we have for each other," Manning said. "The sexuality was secondary. It's very hard when you care for someone, but I love my priesthood more. I admit the fact of my sinfulness. I've done wrong. That's why I've stopped."
Kotowski briefly reflected on her relationship with Manning that spanned decades.
"Father Mike Manning is a very dear and close friend of mine," Kotowski said when reached at an anti-gang conference in Washington, D.C. "Our friendship has grown over 30 years, and we share a deep commitment of faithful and dedicated life of service in our respective work. I have nothing more to publicly say about this personal and private matter."
Manning, 70, started the nonprofit Wordnet, a Catholic television ministry, in 1978. His TV show, "The Word in the World," can be seen weekly on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. He has appeared as a guest on several national TV shows, including "Larry King Live."
Manning is a member of the Society of the Divine Word, a missionary community with 6,000 members in 62 countries.
In 2006, he was presented with a medal, the Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice Cross, which means "for the Church and the Holy Father."
Gerald Barnes, bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino, requested the award for meritorious service from Pope Benedict XVI for Manning's decades of service in the Catholic Church.
Manning teaches at retreats and on religious tours around the world.
His ministry's website at www.wordnet.tv is saturated with teaching materials for sale. Visitors to the website are invited to donate to the ministry, which the website says needs 800 donors giving about $25 a month to cover all expenses.