The Vatican confirmed Monday that it has a secret set of guidelines for priests who break their vow of celibacy and have children.
“I can confirm that these guidelines exist. It is an internal document,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told The New York Times in an article published Monday.
Vincent Doyle, an Irish man, told NYT that he discovered his godfather Rev. John J. Doyle was actually his biological father when he was 28 years old. When Doyle traveled to Rome, Italy, to find justice for him and other children of priests, Doyle said an archbishop showed him an official Vatican document that outlined secret rules for priests who father children despite their vow of celibacy.
Doyle said that the archbishop referred to children like him as “children of the ordained,” adding, “I was shocked they had a term for it.”
Gisotti said the document “requests” that the priest leave the clergy in order to “assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child.” Monsignor Andrea Ripa, a separate Vatican spokesman, told NYT that it is nearly “impossible” to force a priest to leave the ministry.
After he discovered his biological father was a priest, Doyle created Coping International, a support group website for other children of priests. The website currently has 50,000 users in 175 countries.
Some priests break their vow of celibacy through consensual sexual relationships, while others reportedly break their vow through sexual assault and rape.
The Catholic Church has come under fire in the last few months for rampant sexual abuse dating back decades. In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury published a report that identified 301 predator priests and more than 1,000 victims. Earlier this month, Pope Francis publicly confirmed that some priests and bishops have sexually abused nuns and vowed to take actions.
“To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,” Francis said during his annual Christmas address in December.
“It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due,” he added.“That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole church.”