Pope Francis’s advisers announced Sunday that they are working to meet the needs of children fathered by priests, exposing an issue the Church has long concealed.
Francis’ committee of advisers on protecting children from clerical sexual abuse said it is developing guidelines for dealing with the issue for dioceses around the world, using the recent Irish Guidelines as a model, according to the Associated Press. The Church has kept silent about the issue for centuries in fear of the scandal inherent in a priest breaking their vows of celibacy. The greater scandal, however, is the way in which priests often become fathers, according to Vincent Doyle, who campaigns for the rights of the children of Irish priests.
“It’s not always The Thorn Birds,” Doyle told the AP, referencing the story of young woman’s love for her family priest. “More often than not, there’s rape and pedophilia involved.”
“It’s a horrendous problem in many cultures, and it’s not something that is readily talked about,” added Dr. Krysten Winter-Green, a member of Francis’s advisory committee.
Doyle, an Irish psychotherapist, launched Coping International to help children fathered by priests, after discovering late in life that his own father was a priest. Many mothers of priests’ children were victims of sexual abuse, according to Doyle, who told the AP that all too often they conceive those children as teens when a priest rapes them.
The Catholic Church first openly addressed the issue in Ireland in May 2016, when the country’s conference of Catholic Bishops approved guidelines mandating that priests support any children they father. The Irish guidelines state that any priest who sires a child “should face up to his responsibilities – legal, moral and financial. At a minimum, no priest should walk away from his responsibilities,” according to the Irish Times.
Bill Kilgallon, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, informed Francis of the commission’s decision and current efforts to champion the rights of children fathered by priests and to help the church address the issue, according to the AP.
“If someone fathers a child, they have a responsibility to that child, end of story,” Kilgallon said.
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