Roman Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy, but infamously, not all priests keep that vow. And whether it's through a consensual affair or rape, priests sometimes father children. "Now, the Vatican has confirmed, apparently for the first time, that its department overseeing the world's priests has general guidelines for what to do when clerics break celibacy vows and father children," The New York Times reports.
"I can confirm that these guidelines exist," Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told the Times. "It is an internal document," created in 2017 based on a decade's worth of procedures, he added, and its "fundamental principle" is the "protection of the child." Gisotti said the document "requests" that the father leave the priesthood to "assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child." Canon lawyers tell the Times there's nothing in church law requiring a priest who fathers a child to step down. Msgr. Andrea Ripa, under secretary in the Congregation for the Clergy, told the Times that while "it is impossible" to do more than ask such priests to resign, "if you don't ask, you will be dismissed."
There are more than 400,000 Catholic priests worldwide but no reliable estimate for the number of children of priests, though the website for one support group, Coping International, has 50,000 registered users in 175 countries, according to the group's founder, Vincent Doyle. Doyle, an Irish psychotherapist who was 28 when he learned the priest he believed to be his godfather was actually his biological father, will meet with senior prelates in Rome this week when the world's bishops gather to discuss the Catholic child sex abuse scandal. He doesn't think all priests who father children should be laicized or fired.