Vatican admits it has rules for priests who father children

The Vatican’s rules for priests who father children will not be made public.

Alessandro Gisotti, a Vatican spokesman, says a 2017 document synthesised a decade’s worth of procedures and that its “fundamental principle” was the “protection of the child”.

The document is for internal use only.

Gisotti explains the rules say a priest who fathered a child would be requested to leave the priesthood. After this the priest would be expected to “assume his responsibility as a parent, dedicating himself exclusively to the child”.

However, Monsignor Andrea Ripa, who is the under-secretary in the Congregation for the Clergy which oversees more than 400,000 priests, says “it is impossible to impose” the dismissal of the priest.

Instead, leaving the priesthood “can only be asked” for by the priest.

Having said that, Ripa added that the failure to ask to be relieved of priestly obligations was reason for the church to take action: “If you don’t ask, you will be dismissed.”

He added the guidelines are more of a formality than an order.

The tradition of celibacy among Roman Catholic clergy was broadly codified in the 12th century, but not necessarily adhered to, even in the highest places.

Rodrigo Borgia, while a priest, had four children with his mistress before he became Pope Alexander VI, an excess that helped spur Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation.

Luther wrote mockingly that the pope had as much command over celibacy as “the natural movement of the bowels.”

The number of children born to priests is unknown although one support group, Coping International, has 50,000 users in 175 countries.


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