These two ex-nuns fell in love, but had to leave the convent

monica hingston lesbian nun george pell catholic sisters of mercy love story girlfriend sbs insight
Photo: Monica Hingston/SBS Insight

An Australian former Catholic nun has opened up about meeting her girlfriend in the convent, before homophobic condemnation forced the lesbian couple out of the church.

Monica Hingston, who is a second cousin to George Pell, was a nun for 22 years before she fell in love with fellow nun Peg Moran.

She told SBS’ Insight program she met Peg, an American, in Chile in 1983. Both women were there doing missionary work.

“A dear friend used to refer to us as the bold hussy from Ballarat and the sweet and gentle corn-fed gal from Iowa, who had a wicked sense of humour,” she told the program.

“I first met her at a social gathering with the Sisters of Mercy while in Chile. I thought she was very attractive and a beautiful personality, but it wasn’t love at first sight.

“It was about four months later – I can pick the time – when I absolutely fell head over heels for her.

“We were on a three hour bus ride to a fishing village. We talked and talked… It was almost as if we were trying desperately to show each other who we were, in the time we had. I felt I might not have another chance.”

Monica said she didn’t know how Peg felt, but found out later that night.

“She told me, ‘I don’t want you to go, but I’m afraid to ask you to stay,’” she told Insight.

“I knew then that she had the same feelings for me. But it caused all sorts of difficulties for us.”

Church’s rejection of lesbian relationship ‘appalled and angered’ her

Later, the couple got a chance opportunity to move in together. However as their relationship deepened, the women realised the church’s rejection of their union “appalled and angered” her.

As a result, the pair felt they “couldn’t possibly continue” with the church and maintain their integrity.

“We talked about the teachings of the church and the quite vicious condemnation of homosexual relationships,” Monica recalled.

“There was so much we couldn’t accept… I left the convent.

“We had to write to Rome to get dispensation from our vows. They sent us a letter in Latin… stating from this day forward you are no longer bound by the vows.

“You’re put back to the ordinary rank-and-file Catholic. You lost that extra special title you had at that time.”

Catholic clerics ‘don’t understand the beautiful gift of our love’
The couple later returned to Australia, and before Peg’s death in 2011 Monica said they enjoyed “27 beautiful years” together.

In 2004, Monica Hingston took a stand against her cousin then-Cardinal George Pell, attracting international attention.

She penned an open letter urging Pell to retract his support of the Vatican’s description of gay people as “seriously depraved persons”.

Hingston told Insight, “I don’t think the clerics of the church understand the lived experiences we’re trying to convey to them.

“I don’t think they’ve taken too much time to ask us about those experiences.

“The love that I had for Peg, and hers for me, just made it so clear that this was such a beautiful gift.

“It’s so obvious that you have something that you will go through hell and high water for.

“You won’t let the other one go no matter the restrictions or the condemnation.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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