Priests’ children need to be acknowledged

priests' children

Mr Bill Kilgallon, director of the National Office for Professional Standards in New Zealand, says the Catholic Church as yet has no idea how many people in New Zealand may have a father who is or has been a priest.

But he says priests’ children have the right to know who their parents are.

He was speaking to RNZ about Coping International, a website that offers support to the children of clergy.

There are some New Zealanders among 13,500 people worldwide who have been in touch the website’s founder, Vincent Doyle, since he started the website in late 2014.

“We’ve been contacted by a number of people in New Zealand – one family where there’s more than one child to the same priest, to the same woman,” Doyle said.

“But they’re going to be making moves to that particular diocese in the future and they’ll be contacting the bishop concerned.”

The response to the website has prompted the Vatican to acknowledge the issue, and last month it began working on guidelines as to how it should respond.

Kilgallon, who is also a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, personally briefed the Pope about the issue last month.

He said the expectation would be that the [priest] should go and be a father to his child.

Kilgallon thought that secrecy surrounding the issue more often comes from family or relatives or friends – the community around you. Not the Pope, the Vatican, the bishop, especially in today’s society in a country like New Zealand.

“They must, must get this right. This is the first time in history the church has really done this … they can’t just issue some guidelines… if they mess this up they will traumatise thousands of people.”

Kilgallon acknowledged there might be complications, such as a priest’s financial obligations to a child, or the need for DNA paternity testing, but these were purely secondary to the primary responsibility of the priest.

“We’ve acknowledged … children have rights and one of those rights is to know their parents.”

“The difficulty occurs when a child is born in a situation where the father is a priest who’s not supposed to be in a relationship and fathering children. This can often lead to the relationship being kept secret, the identity of the father being denied to the child.”



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News category: New Zealand.

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