Terry Dosh spent the better part of three decades in a monastic setting — as a student, monk and priest at St. John’s University in Collegeville. But his life took a dramatic turn in 1971, when he married a former nun and set out to change the Vatican’s mandate on celibacy in the priesthood.
Dosh, who once led a national organization of married former priests called CORPUS (Corps of Reserved Priests United for Service), died at age 85 at his home in Minneapolis on April 7.
Even though he was married almost 45 years, he never stopped seeing himself as a priest, according to his family. “He was told you have to choose,” said Paul Dosh, the younger of his two sons and a political scientist at Macalester College. Yet he refused to accept that it had to be that way. “He insisted that there was a new way to be a priest.”
For more than 20 years, Terry Dosh published a newsletter, “Bread Rising,” promoting the ordination of women and married men in the Roman Catholic Church. And he never lost faith that those changes would come eventually. “He had a perspective because he was a historian,” said his wife, Millie. “He knew that things didn’t happen quickly.”
Dosh, who was born in St. Paul in 1930, was the sixth of seven children in a devoutly religious family. So it was no surprise when he enrolled in St. John’s Preparatory School in 1944 and announced his intention to become a monk. “He kind of fell in love with the whole ambience of the monastery,” said his wife. He became a Benedictine monk in 1950, an ordained priest seven years later and began teaching college, eventually earning a Ph.D. in European history at the University of Minnesota.
He met his future wife while visiting a Bloomington convent, where she was a nun. “Terry was a very gregarious and very extroverted person,” she said. Still, it was several years before they decided to marry. “We waited until Terry had a dispensation from his obligations as a priest. That came in 1971.” By that time, she had left her own religious order to finish college and become a Montessori teacher. For her husband, though, the decision meant the end of his career as a college professor.
“He was a total genius, but he got sort of blackballed from getting jobs in Minnesota because he left the [priesthood],” said their elder son, musician Martin Dosh. The former priest taught adult education at various churches and ran a Montessori school before he was hired, in 1981, as national coordinator for CORPUS, the organization of married priests.
At that point, he started traveling the country and publishing newsletters calling for church reform. He even appeared on the TV show “To Tell the Truth” in 1991 to spread his message. That same year, he predicted that the Vatican would welcome back married priests by the end of the decade. In 2003, he told the Detroit News: “After John Paul II dies, the next pope will do it.”
He was an optimist, said his wife. “It didn’t really happen,” she said. “But the cracks are there.”
The month before he died, Dosh, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was still sounding hopeful, said son Paul. “He had such an irrepressible joy and hope,” he said. “He clearly exited the clergy. He exited the Benedictine order. But he remained incredibly committed to being a priest.”
In addition to his wife and sons, Dosh is survived by a brother, the Rev. Mark Dosh. Services have been held.