Vatican Admits to Secret Guidelines for Priests Who Father Children

The document requires that the priest leave the Church and assume his responsibilities as a parent.

priests father children
Catholic priests who father children have to abide by a secret set of Vatican-issued guidelines. (Getty Images)
Getty Images/iStockphoto

In a scathing report, CBS News has learned that the Vatican has a set of secret guidelines for its priests who — despite a vow of celibacy — father children.

Vincent Doyle, the founder of a support group for children of priests, told the news site that a Vatican official showed him the confidential instructions. He said he’s been pushing the Catholic Church to publicly support those children, who often grow up living in shame and secrecy.

“My mother had been told to keep it a secret by the Church,” Sarah Thomas,  who said she’s proof priests sometimes break their vows to the Church, which for nearly nine centuries has forbidden its clergymen from sex and marriage.

It wasn’t until she was 14-years-old that Thomas met her father.

“It soon became apparent that he couldn’t or wouldn’t or wasn’t allowed to be any sort of father to me in any meaningful sense,” Thomas said, adding that the hardest part of her youth was “feeling very isolated. I literally thought I was the only priest child in the world.”

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti confirmed to CBS News the existence of “a document for internal use, which summarizes the practice formed over the years in the Congregation and is not intended for publication.”

Gisotti said “the fundamental principle behind these lines is the protection of the child. For this reason, the document ordinarily requires that the priest present a request for dispensation from the duties of the clerical state and, as a layman, assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively” to their child.

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