The children of the priests are actually called ‘children of the ordained’.
Rome: The huge number of stories of child sexual abuse in churches shocked the world. The embarrassing crisis will be discussed by bishops all over the world at the Vatican this week in an extraordinary meeting. But there will be another group in Rome present at that time – a private congregation of people who feel they have been wronged by the church’s culture of secrecy and aversion to scandal.
At the age of 28, Vincent Doyle, a psychotherapist in Ireland, finally found out from his mother that the Roman Catholic priest he had always identified as his godfather was also his biological father.
Gradually he learnt that he is not the only person who suffers from this fate consisting of internalised shame and stigma. So, he founded a global support group to help other children of priests, or more crudely put, children born from church scandals.
His support group, Coping International, currently has 50,000 users in 175 countries.
His attempts to get the bishops to acknowledge these children went unanswered and he was called the product of the rarest of transgressions. But they are actually called ‘children of the ordained’.
Doyle learnt the term from Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, who finally showed him a document of Vatican guidelines on how to deal with priests who father children. He, however, refused to give him a copy as it was a secret.
Recently, the department overseeing the world’s priests in Vatican also confirmed that there are coded general guidelines for what to do when clerics break celibacy vows and father children. Once again, the request to share the guidelines with the public was denied but the Vatican spokesman informed that the document synthesized a decade’s worth of procedures and that its “fundamental principle” was the “protection of the child.”
The large number of stories like Doyle’s has sparked a debate in the clerical circles and questions about celibacy being mandatory for the priesthood, are being raised.
Violation of celibacy has resulted in children born out of affairs involving priests and laywomen or nuns and many a times as result of rape.
While some high-profile cases managed to get attention, the overwhelming majority didn’t. Nonetheless, the victims of clerical child abuse and nuns who have been sexually assaulted by priests are not backing down. All the victims will be meeting several prominent prelates privately in Rome.
The Irish church’s principles also don’t explicitly require clerics to leave the priesthood but again exhorts them to “face up to responsibilities — personal, legal, moral and financial.”
Canon lawyers vehemently deny that there is any church law that forces priests to leave the priesthood for fathering children. Even Doyle and few other children of priests don’t support dismissal from the priesthood as loss of livelihood won’t be in the best interests of the family, although other children of priests want the complete opposite.
Rev. Pietro Tosi was 54 when he raped a 14-year-old. When the girl’s family persuaded the priest to recognize their son, he refused and got the family evicted from their parish-owned home in a tiny town outside Ferrara, Italy.
In 2010, Erik Zattoni, the son, sued his “father” Tosi, and got both public support and justice through a court sentence based on DNA. Tosi died in 2014 still a priest and the Vatican merely instructed Tosi’s bishop to admonish him.
Today, many children of priests are progressively turning to DNA tests to prove their parentage.