The Roman Catholic Church has acknowledged that it has guidelines for priests who have violated their vow of celibacy and have fathered children.
Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told CBS News in an interview published Tuesday afternoon that the Church has “a document for internal use” on the issue that was “not intended for publication.”
“… the fundamental principle behind these lines is the protection of the child,” explained Gisotti. “For this reason, the document ordinarily requires that the priest present a request for dispensation from the duties of the clerical state and, as a layman, assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively [to his child].”
The New York Times first reported on the guidelines, among their interviewees being Vincent Doyle, an Irish psychotherapist who set up a support group for children of Catholic priests called “Coping International.”
“It’s the next scandal,” explained Doyle, who did not learn that his father was a priest until he was in his late 20’s. “There are kids everywhere.”
Although the Vatican recently confirmed the existence of guidelines, they were not the first Church body to publicly discuss what should happen to priests who have children.
In August of 2017, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference released a set of principles at the behest of Coping International, stressing that “the wellbeing of his child should be his first consideration.”
“In the case of a child fathered by a Catholic priest, it follows that a priest as any new father, should face up to his responsibilities – personal, legal, moral and financial. At a minimum, no priest should walk away from his responsibilities,” stated the Irish Bishops.
“It is vital in discerning a way forward that the mother, as the primary care giver, and as a moral agent in her own right, be fully involved in the decision.”
The new revelation over the Vatican’s guidelines for priests who become parents comes as the Church continues to wrestle with how to resolve its years-long sex abuse scandal.
Around 200 church leaders from across the globe will convene in Rome on Thursday to begin a four-day meeting on how to handle the internal church crisis.
“This is a new day in terms of transparency,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who is one of the meeting organizers, as reported by The Telegraph.
“Bishops are going to be held accountable. My hope is that people see this as a turning point.”