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Catholic bishops create guidelines for priests with children

Added on August 19, 2017


'At a minimum, no priest should walk away from his responsibilities'

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: psychotherapist Vincent  Doyle has set up a website  to help people, such as himself, whose fathers were priests. The website has been funded by the archbishop. Photograph: Alan Betson

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: psychotherapist Vincent Doyle has set up a website to help people, such as himself, whose fathers were priests. The website has been funded by the archbishop. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The wellbeing of the child should be the primary consideration for any Catholic priest who becomes a father, guidelines approved by Ireland's Catholic bishops state.

The guidelines say the priest "should face up to his responsibilities - legal, moral and financial. At a minimum, no priest should walk away from his responsibilities."

In arriving at any decision concerning his child, it is "vital" that the mother, "as the primary caregiver, and as a moral agent in her own right, be fully involved". It was also "important that a mother and child should not be left isolated or excluded".

The guidelines, Principles of Responsibility Regarding Priests who Father Children While in Ministry, were approved by the bishops last May, but have yet to be published on their website or any Catholic diocesan website in Ireland.

They were prepared following discussions with Galway-based psychotherapist Vincent Doyle (34), whose father, Co Longford priest Fr JJ Doyle, died of lung cancer in 1995.

Mr Doyle contacted the Boston Globe and, this week, the American newspaper ran a series on children fathered by priests.

Mr Doyle has also set up the website www.coping international.com to help people, such as himself, whose fathers were priests. The website has been funded by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

The guidelines state: "In justice and in love, the needs of the child should be given the first consideration. In the case of a child fathered by a Catholic priest, it follows that a priest, as any new father, should face up to his responsibilities - legal, moral and financial."

They continue: "At a minimum, no priest should walk away from his responsibilities. His relevant church authority (bishop or religious superior) should also direct such a pri

Arriving at a decision, the priest should take into account the best interests of the child; dialogue with, and respect for, the mother of the child; dialogue with church superiors, and take into consideration both civil and canon law.est in addressing his responsibilities."

Asked why these principles had not been announced publicly, a spokesman for the bishops said "it was presumed that Vincent would".

From the bishops' guidelines

Upon ordination priests promise to live a life of celibacy in their dedication to Christ and to pastoral ministry in the church. However if, contrary to this obligation, a priest fathers a child, the wellbeing of his child should be his first consideration.

The following principles of responsibility attempt to articulate a position based on natural justice and subsequent rights regarding the children of priests. This does not replace the responsibility of arriving at practical decisions which pertains to those children with the common good (whether in the family, church or State)

1. The birth of a child to a couple brings into being a unique person with a mother and a father. The parents have a fundamental right to make their own decisions regarding the care of their newborn child.

2. In justice and in love, the needs of the child should be given the first consideration. In the case of a child fathered by a Catholic priest, it follows that a priest, as any new father, should face up to his responsibilities - legal, moral and financial. At a minimum, no priest should walk away from his responsibilities. His relevant church authority (bishop or religious superior) should also direct such a priest in addressing his responsibilities

3. Each situation requires careful consideration (*) but certain principles present themselves on which the decision of the priest should be made

-The best interests of the child

-Dialogue with, and respect for, the mother of the child

- Dialogue with church superiors

-Taking into account civil and canon law (**)

4. It is vital in discerning a way forward that the mother, as the primary caregiver, and as a moral agent in her own right, be fully involved in the decision.

5. In arriving at a determination regarding these cases, it is important that a mother and child should not be let isolated or excluded.

*In particular, cultural contexts can have an important bearing. However, the moral agency of the mother will remain important to the cultural contexts

**Such laws or norms may include rights of custody and maintenance (civil law) or the process of laicisation (canon law)

Approved May 2017


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