The annual bishop's retreat focused around the Trinity and was held at the Franciscan Retreat Center in Kennebunkport, Maine. Photo includes the 15 bishops from the New England Province. Pilot photo/CardinalSeansBlog.org
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Of course, since the famous Colleen McCullough novel The Thorn Birds, published in 1977, people have, in literature and real life, spoken about priests who have broken their vow of celibacy and fathered children. I believe that this is a serious problem, but in my experience as a priest and as a bishop, the instance of when a priest has fathered a child has not been very frequent. But the priests have themselves seen the need to step away from ministry and dedicate themselves to the upbringing of that child and taking care of the mother.
So, I issued the below statement to reassure Catholics that this is what the policy is in the Archdiocese. I think it's also important for us to realize that just as people at times are not faithful to their marriages, priests are not always faithful to their vows, but this does not mean that celibacy has not been a great blessing in the life of the Church. So many priests, sisters and brothers have embraced very difficult ministries and assignments; often times even placing their lives at risk and doing things we would certainly hesitate to ask many people with the responsibility of a family to do. So, besides the fact that celibacy witnesses to the Church's faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it has also made men and women available for service to God's people in extraordinary ways and it has brought many, many blessings upon the Catholic community.
"Every child is a precious gift from God"
"The gift of life must be protected and cared for in any and all circumstances. Every child is a precious gift from God, deserving the respect accorded to all people. At their ordination, Catholic priests make a promise of celibacy, a commitment to the Church and the people they serve. If a priest fathers a child, he has a moral obligation to step aside from ministry and provide for the care and needs of the mother and the child. In such a moment, their welfare is the highest priority.
In 2016 "The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors" received correspondence regarding the children or priests. After careful consideration of this important issue, it was judged to be beyond the Commission's mandate. The Commission functions as an advisory body to the Holy Father, proposing norms and practices for protecting minors from sexual abuse. In particular, the Commission seeks to assist dioceses and religious orders throughout the world as they implement education and training programs for the prevention of sexual abuse. It is not within the charge of the Commission to become involved with individual cases.
With recognition of the importance of these matters that have profoundly impacted the lives of the children, their mothers and the community at large, the Commission determined to refer this issue to the Holy See for further review."