A married vicar has been suspended after he had an adulterous affair with his married curate.
The Rev Rupert Kalus, 56, was originally a Catholic but switched to the Church of England because he didn’t feel able to stick to priesthood celibacy rules.
He went on to marry and have three children but has become embroiled in scandal after a fling with the Rev Ali Miller, who herself is married to a vicar.
Clues to Mr Kalus’s infidelity were apparent in a recent newsletter he published in which a remorseful poem describes "faithlessness". It began: "Branded with a dirty cross, for public scandal of private wrong".
Other lines include: "The burn marks are on the inside/ Where guilt has seared my soul like hot metal." It also speaks of being "caught out".
The poem appeared to be about Christians absolving themselves of sin during Lent. One of Mr Kalus’s parishioners, in Lanchester and Burnhope parish, County Durham, said: "It made little sense to us at the time but now we can see what he might have been referring to, it speaks of a very real and personal inner turmoil."
The former teacher had been a vicar in the parish of Lanchester and Burnhope for the last 11 years. On arriving in the parish in 2007, he said: "I thought I had a vocation to the priesthood but I hadn’t a vocation to celibacy because I wanted to get married."
Mr Kalus grew close to Mrs Miller when she was a trainee at his two parish churches of All Saints and St John’s. She was ordained in 2015. Mrs Miller, 42, is married to fellow vicar, Rev Andy Miller, 46, of Burnopfield parish, seven miles away. When she was ordained in 2015, she told a Church of England newsletter: "I was aware of a constant urge to explore vocation to ordained ministry.
"God’s call is often unexpected and, in my case, I felt deep within that I needed to take time to contemplate this, not least because my husband was also going through the discernment process."
Mr Kalus and Mrs Miller are now banned from carrying out their public duties for 18 and 12 months respectively.
News of their suspension was revealed to worshippers at All Saints Parish Church in Lanchester by the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, last weekend. A spokesman for the Diocese of Durham said: "I can confirm that the Rev Rupert Kalus and the Rev Ali Miller, of Lanchester and Burnhope Benefice, had an adulterous affair, which has ended.
"Following the procedures of the Clergy Discipline Measure, The Bishop of Durham has prohibited both Rupert and Ali from their public ministry for a period of 18 and 12 months respectively.
"We are deeply saddened that this situation has arisen and ask that you respect the privacy of both families and hold them in your prayers." Rev Kalus met his wife while both studied at Durham University. Each of them went on to become teachers around the Tyneside area before Mr Kalus began his training for the clergy. The Church of England said he was ordained as a curate in St Cuthbert’s parish, Durham, in 2002, before becoming a priest in charge, then vicar, in nearby Shildon, in 2003, where he stayed until moving to Lanchester.
Mr Kalus and his wife have sons aged 22 and 16 and a daughter aged 20. It is not known where the couple is currently staying after their move from the vicarage.
One worshipper told The Sun: "No one had a clue. It’s so sad because they both have partners and children."
Mr Miller and his wife have not been seen at their vicarage in Burnopfield for several days.
One worshipper at St James’s church said: "Andy has been a popular vicar, he’s a lovely man. "He and Ali looked as though they lived a happy life…I hope they can be happy again. When asked if she would comment yesterday, Mrs Miller said: "No, I think not." Mr Kalus was unavailable.
The church said both can return to their duties once their suspensions had been served.