Coping liaises with episcopal conferences globally, below, select the country of your choice to learn more about what the church in your country are saying about this matter.
In November 2018, Coping International made contact with the Malta Episcopal Conference. We informed then that we had contact from Malta who advised they were fathered by Catholic Priests. The website received a noticeable amount of visits from Malta during our research period indicating a possible need for some astute pastoral assistance in this area. Consequently, Coping contacted the Malta episcopal conference. The Malta Episcopal Conference responded stating:
Your letter was discussed at the 6 November 2018 meeting of the Maltese Episcopal Conference.
The bishops committed themselves to receive and accompany anyone who approaches them on this issue. Those concerned can make contact with them by writing to the general secretary of the Maltese Episcopal Conference on firstname.lastname@example.org
Moreover, your correspondence was forwarded to the Safeguarding Commission of the Archdiocese of Malta so that it will be taken into consideration when revising our policies in this area.
Persons affected by this phenomenon are asked to write to the general secretary of the Maltese Episcopal Conference on email@example.com for assistance. Please click here for further assistance representing to the diocese.
Coping International made contact with the Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2017 regarding children of Catholic Priests.
In September 2017, the Chairman of the Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops contacted Coping, stating:
The question of Priest Fathers and the related Child Abuse, are matters that the Catholic Bishops in Kenya have taken seriously since it became apparent the world over, that such issues were becoming critical. […] It is instructive to advise you that the foregoing documents should largely guide the official position and procedures that the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has put in place. As you will notice in the same documents, there is clarity in the event of a priest fathering a child.
Bishop Anyolo stated further:
The Bishop is also guided by the relevant sections of the Canon Law. Furthermore, the priest is required to undertake parental responsibility over the child until the legal age of maturity is attained.
Coping notes that under Canon Law, fathering a chld is not a canonical crime and thus a priest may not be dismissed from the priestly state for fathering a child. For more on this matter, click her.
The document Bishop Anyolo refers to is the called “Safeguarding Children. Policy and Procedures.” Safegaurding children_Kenya Episcopal Conference_printing
Bishop Anyolo concluded:
These official standard documents of the Catholic Church in Kenya, will guide you and any of the victims that may be willing to pursue justice in a truly honest and justifiable spirit. Such justice will definitely be availed.
The document defines emotional and abuse, as well as neglect (both central experiences of children of clergy) as follows:
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment or rejection
of a child by conveying that he/she is unloved, inadequate or even
worthless; or by over-protection and limiting exploration, learning,
and normal social interaction. (§ 2.4.)
Neglect can be defined as an omission or the failure to protect a
child. This is often evidenced in the child by being deprived of food,
clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, safety, affection
from adults, and failure to access appropriate medical care. (§ 2.6.)
In July 2018, Coping International wrote to His Eminence, Cardinal Njue stating:
Can the Church in Africa welcome [children of priests]?
His Eminence cardinal Njue replied:
I welcome your message and kind requests with an open arms. And I assure that I will do anything withing my office to grant your requests. […] I will continue to strive for best. May God bless you and your holy aspirations!
Coping encourages children of priests and their mothers or priests who have children, if they have not had success with the local bishop to contact Cardinal Njue at the Archdiocese of Nairobi, under the principle of subsidiarity.
In 2016, Coping International received a formal communication from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Letter from USCCB to Coping International, 2016.
The USCCB responded to concerns as expressed by Coping International in part as follows:
Every Child born into this world deserves to be loved and cherished by a mother and father, regardless of who they are. [The USCCB] appreciate[s] your efforts to support the dignity of children born of priests out of wedlock and to ensure their proper pastoral care.” – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Catholic Priests’ Children.
In 2017, representatives from Coping International visited the Boston Archdiocese at Diocesan headquarters at Braintree, Boston. Comments from the Archdiocese follow:
[The Boston Archdiocese] will search for avenues of support [for children of priests] if they make themselves known to the diocese. According to the Boston Diocese guidelines, neglect includes abandonment of a child by a parent, custodian or guardian
The Irish Catholic Church have stated on matters related to Catholic Priests children:
In the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pope Francis repeats the need to care for families with particular difficulties (cf. Amoris Laetitia nn. 239-240). Priests and other pastoral ministers are called to respond in thoughtful and supportive ways to people who suffer because of their family situation. These situations would include children of priests.[20/10/2016.]
The Bishops are anxious to ensure that appropriate support is being offered to all children. In particular they appreciate the sensitivity required in any pastoral outreach to children of priests. […] The Bishops are actively collaborating with Towards Healing so that Towards Healing will be in a position to provide appropriate counselling / support to children of Catholic Clergy.” [1/7/2014; 16/10/2014]
Confidentiality agreements may be unjust if they hinder the basic goods of the mother and child, example: if they are used to protect the reputation of the priest of institutional church by creating a veil of secrecy that isolates the mother and child, from relationships, knowledge and resources, which they are owed in natural justice.
The Congress of Religious of Ireland has stated:
The Executive of CORI undertake to encourage individual congregations to respond positively to any approaches made by Coping. [29/10/2014]
The Irish Missionary Union has stated:
[The IMU] are in favour of discussing with CORI, the Bishops and Towards Healing the best way of responding to the matters [Coping] brought to [IMU] attention. [07th/10/2014.]
With regard to children of the ordained and religious, every bishop in England and Wales would want to discern the best ways in which it is possible for the father of a child, who is a priest, to fulfil his responsibilities. Every bishop in England and Wales is willing to meet anyone in their diocese in a similar situation.
With regard to a priest who has become a father, the Bishops of England and Wales recognise that it is not possible to rule out, at the beginning, any possible responses to these situations, which involve a simple default position of insisting that a man “leave the priesthood” or that he automatically be permitted to continue in active ministry.
Im Mai 2018 richtete Coping International das Thema Kinder katholischer Priester an die Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, ein Vertreter der Deutschen Katholischen Bischofskonferenz antwortete freundlich und bestätigte die Zuständigkeit für Angelegenheiten, die Kinder von Priestern betreffen:
In May 2018, Coping International addressed the matter of children of Catholic priests to the German Bishops Conference, a representative of the German Catholic Episcopal Conference kindly responded confirming with regard to responsibility for matters relating to children of priests:
Die Verantwortung liegt bei den Ortsbischöfen und in den einzelnen Diözesen./p>
“Die Verantwortung dafür liegt bei den Ortsbischöfen und in den einzelnen Diözesen.” Coping möchte anerkennen, dass dies eine Anerkennung der lokalen Verantwortung für die Belange der Kinder katholischer Priester darstellt, die mit dem kanonischen Gesetz 384 verbunden ist.
“The responsibility for this lies with the local bishops and in the individual dioceses.” Coping would like to acknowledge that the this constitutes an acknowledgement of local responsibility for the matters of children of catholic priests, which is union with Canon Law 384.
In some Dioceses’ [in the Philippines], one in five priests have fathered children.
At the 111th Plenary Assembly of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, documents were provided by Coping International for consideration by the bishops. Coping, having already heard from people within the Philippines requesting help, asked the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines to consider the plight of the ordinary, those less fortunate, the children of priests shadowed, forgotten and ignored within the Philippines.
On 11th July 2015, the Secretary of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines stated:
We would like to inform you that your letter to the CBCP dated May 11, 2015 was presented to 111th CBCP Plenary Assembly. All the members received of the same letter with the attachments. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP President, addressed the assembly and pointed out the seriousness of the matter being raised by Coping International. The local ordinaries are exhorted to attend to this most serious concern. The bishops are also urged to make the necessary and appropriate interventions in their respective dioceses as regard to the plight of the children of priests and their parents.
Archbishop Villegas, CBCP President stated: The problem to which you have referred is something that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines takes with utmost seriousness. We have produced guidelines for our bishops to go by in dealing with people who are victimised by the indiscretion of priests. We take care of the victims and our solicitude includes the best interest of the children in such difficult situations. We pray and assist the offending priest in finding the way of conversion, asking him above all to be docile to the prompting of the Spirit and we extend every assistance to which women and children who may be involved are legally and morally entitled. There are desks on diocesan level and also at the national level that deal with legal issues involved, never losing sight of our pastoral obligations and the demands of charity.”
Local ordinaries are exhorted to attend to this most serious concern [regarding children of Catholic Priests]. The bishops are also urged to make the necessary and appropriate interventions in their respective dioceses as regard to the plight of the children of priests and their parents. – Catholic Bishops of the Philippines
What [is] the stance of the Catholic Bishops of Canada is on the issue of Children of Catholic Priests and Bishops?
The Catholic Bishops Responded stating:
This is a very important question. Such matters are handled on an individual diocesan basis. The position of the Bishops of Canada is clear: any complaint concerning the improper conduct of a Catholic priest must be referred to his diocesan Bishop. All such matters are important and should be directed to the Bishops concerned immediately. All Bishops are very concerned about any misconduct, and I urge you never to hesitate to contact the Bishop concerned.
Coping addressed the Australian Catholic Bishops on matters relating to children of Catholic Priests. They in reply stated:
Issues arising where clergy have fathered children were considered by the Permanent Committee of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. The policy of the Bishops in Australia is to treat each situation in an individual manner taking into account all the circumstances, the wishes of the various parties, and with a primary concern for the needs of any such child.
Coping International communicated with the Catholic Bishops of Scotland who stated:
It is the policy of the Bishops of Scotland that they will meet with and listen to those who approach them on a case by case basis and consider their requests. […] Whether counselling will be provided, each Bishop will look into such requests on a case by case basis, and with the help of professional advice
If we become aware of a case we shall act upon it.
We [appreciate] your valuable work in aid of children of Catholic Priests around the world. [They have cordially made] “an undertaking to inform [Coping] if such matters [Pertaining to Children of Priests] may arise in the future.” The Episcopal Conference recommends that “it remains the responsibility of the individual Dioceses or Religious Congregations to inform the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities in case such allegations or suspicions [pertaining to Children of Priests]” who have in turn agreed to work with Coping. The Episcopal conference has stated verbatim as follows:
[Absence of known cases/proven cases] does not preclude the fact or situation of cases where suspicion of Priests having improper relationships with women is made. The Episcopal Conference has not at any time negotiated or settled claims around the matter under discussion [children of Roman Catholic Clergy]. As you may be aware, the figure of the Episcopal Conference does not override or interfere with the internal ordering of individual Dioceses and Religious Congregations.
The Catholic Church is not satisfied with merely responding to the sexual abuse of the young. It seeks to safeguard and protect the young from any form of abuse. The primary responsibility for the safety and well-being of children lies with the parents.
The 2015 August Plenary Session of the South African Bishops conference discussed Coping International and Children of Catholic Priests. There was a general recognition of the importance of the issues raised by Coping International and the discussion was positive. Bishops noted ‘children and their needs should always come first. The South African Catholic Bishops expressed their appreciation and gratitude for the initiative Coping has undertaking and see it as essential for [the Episcopal Conference] to learn more about the situation in Southern Africa.’
– Most Reverend Archbishop Stephen Brislin. [President of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa.]
Children of Members of Religious Orders, Male & Female.
It has come to the attention of Coping International that there are known cases where members of female religious orders have had children with clergy. Documents released in 1997 tell of abuses against nuns, imposed secrecy and women having to leave the religious life, subsequently been forced into difficult lives for reasons beyond their control. Children born into such unions, as well as their mothers, undoubtedly suffer in many ways. As a result the UISG have ratified and adopted the Guidelines issued by the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference as a means of support for these women and their children worldwide.
The USG, the union of male religious orders have similarly adopted the guidelines also, see below.
The USG provides a context for shared reflection among Religious Orders worldwide. It is usually said that there are around 200,000 male religious in the world. On September 8th 2017, the Secretary for the USG stated “the members of the USG have been informed of the guidelines by email and have expressed their appreciation. Each Institute will now apply them according to their circumstances.”
What does this mean? If you have been fathered by a Catholic Priest and he is a member of a Religious Order, the Religious Superior “will now apply [the guidelines] …” thus a universal approach by the Catholic Church on behalf of Religious Orders is now in place.
In response to the phenomenon of children of nuns [and abuses therein, please click here for more] the UISG have responded offering support to mothers and children. It is important to recognise that this support is open to women who may have left the religious life, and those who remain in religious life. Note, with regard to women still in religious life, Coping has been advised of a number of historic cases involving children born to nuns, who were subsequently adopted.