Holy See – Children of Catholic Priests.

In January 2021, the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences answered a series of questions regarding the matter of the children of the ordained and religious and how the church has to date, historically speaking, treated the matter.

Click here to read the Vatican document.

In January 2020, Coping International visited the Dicastery for Laity, Family & Life and asked questions regarding the children of the ordained.

1) Does the dicastery recognise the natural rights of all children including children of priests?
2) Does the Dicastery recognise the right of the father to have suitable/adequate employment (in the context of children of priests?)

The Dicastery in its response recognised the local right of the bishop to discern such matters empowering local acumen and judgment with regard to same.

Dicastery for Laity, Family & Life Response to Coping.

During a meeting with Coping International and the Holy See in January 2020 at the Vatican, Coping discussed the situation whereupon a priest fathers a child but neither biological parent wish to marry. Regarding the impossibility of a priest remaining in the priesthood, recommitting to celibacy and acknowledging his child (openly), the Holy See agreed that such a situation is not impossible, adding that many considerations must be taken into account, including the suitability of the priest for the priesthood. If a priest has fathered a child, one must consider two things:

1) the good of the child, all we have to do for that, keeping in mind any concrete situation,
2) the suitability of the priest for the priesthood and for exercising ministry.

The Holy See beautifully cited John 16:12 in relation to adequate discernment of when and how to tell the child of a priest about their heritage so as to ensure the child is best prepared and cared for. This position correctly corresponds directly with the third guideline of the Nota relative alla prassi della Congregazione per il Clero a proposito dei chierici con prole” {Notes concerning the practice of the Congregation for the Clergy with regard to clerics with children} which allows some fathers of newborns to remain in ministry. In such situations, the Holy See has confirmed, “the timing and the manner of conveying such information [regarding parentage] rests with the interested adults (biological parents/guardians)”

PDF Download (confirmation.)

For more on this topic, click here and read question addressed to Cardinal Rai.

Vos estis lux mundi defines “any person in a state of […] deprivation of personal liberty which, in fact, even occasionally, limits their ability to understand or to want or otherwise resist the offence” as a vulnerable adult.

Vos Estis Lux Mundi.

On October 15th 2017, Mr. Vincent Doyle, Coping Founder met with the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations to discuss matters relating to children of the ordained, mental health and well-being and how the the Holy See and Coping might work together toward a common good taking into account the importance of local episcopal authority worldwide. The meeting was favourable, hospitable and hopeful.

Press Release.

In his encyclical Sacerdotalis caelibatus Blessed Pope Paul VI speaks of a “lamentable defection” referring to priests who have “been sadly unfaithful to the obligations they accepted when ordained.” In response to this reality, Blessed Pope Paul VI stated:

The Church […] judges it necessary to make every effort […] to remedy the wounds she suffers by their defection.
– Blessed Paul VI, 1967. § 83 & 84.

For more on mental health, violence and children of priests, please click here.

On the Importance of Fathers.
Excerpt from Amoris Laetitia.
Pope Francis.

God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity he can be “close to his wife and share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. And to be close to his children as they grow – when they play and when they work, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they stray and when they get back on the right path. To be a father who is always present. When I say ‘present’, I do not mean ‘controlling’. Fathers who are too controlling overshadow their children, they don’t let them develop”. Some fathers feel they are useless or unnecessary, but the fact is that “children need to find a father waiting for them when they return home with their problems. They may try hard not to admit it, not to show it, but they need it”. § 177.

Full text, click here.

Pope Francis on the importance of Fathers. General Audience, January – February 2015.

The Family. The Father. (Part I.)

The Family. The Father. (Part 2.)

On October 24th 2017, Coping International received a letter from the Pontifical Commission for Safeguarding of Minors, Working Group Chair, Mr. Peter Kilgallon. Coping is grateful to the Pontifical Commission, Mr. Kilgallon and his working group as well as the Holy See and look forward to a fruitful relationship wherein children and their consequent welfare will always and ever be at the centre.

In September 2018, the Pontifical Commission, echoed their initial position on the phenomenon of children of priests, see links to the two letters below.

Letter from the Pontifical Commission for Safeguarding of Minors. 2017.
Letter from the Pontifical Commission for Safeguarding of Minors 2018.

“This very important issue requires attention on behalf of the church worldwide and the child and mother must be at the center of any pastoral activity. Representatives from Coping International met with Vatican Officials who recognised and confirmed that relevant dicasteries should begin to look, examine and learn more about this situation to further pastoral care for women and children concerned.”

The above statement was agreed upon at the Pontifical Academy for Life in the Presence of Fr. Mensuali, May 30th 2017, Secretary for Archbishop Paglia, Academy for Life President, following a meeting with Archbishop Paglia who recognised the issue as a pro-life matter.

It was very nice to meet [with representatives of Coping International] and to have such an open and honest discussion. I wish to confirm that I have a great personal interest in learning more about the matters that we discussed. I consider that what I can learn from you will be both of personal enrichment and will give me additional and valuable insights which could assist me in my work for the universal Church.

Mgr. Kennedy oversees the disciplinary section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican that processes abuse cases. Coping, as an international mandatory reporting organisation, will furnish Mgr. Kennedy with relevant -non identifying documentation regarding the nature of abuse experienced by children of Catholic Priests, as a direct result of imposed secrecy, isolation, deliberate neglect, features common to most cases whereupon a priest has fathered a child. Coping also reports all known or suspected cases of abuse to Tusla (Social Services) in Ireland who work with International Social Services and the Irish National Police who work alongside Interpol.

Click here for more.