The Vatican has revealed there are secret rules for priests who father children, despite their vows to remain celibate.
After an investigation by the New York Times, a Vatican spokesperson confirmed this week that the rules exist – but insisted they were in place for the ‘protection of the child’.
The full set of rules was revealed to the newspaper by Vincent Doyle, whose father was a Catholic priest, after he saw the document when he travelled to Rome in search of justice for the children of ministers.
Doyle founded a group called ‘Coping International’ to bring together the children of priests, which already has 50,000 members in 175 countries.
A Vatican spokesperson confirmed this week that there are rules in place for priests who father children
‘I can confirm that these guidelines exist,’ Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told the New York Times. ‘It is an internal document.’
Gisotti added that the fundamental principle of the internal guidelines was the ‘protection of the child.’
He claims that under the secret rules, a priest who fathered children was requested to leave the priesthood and ‘assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child.’
But Monsignor Andrea Ripa, under-secretary in the Congregation for the Clergy at the Vatican, told the paper the guidelines were more of a formality than an order.
As part of their vows Catholic priests are required to maintain a life of celibacy, refraining from any form of sexual activity.
A growing tide of sexual abuse scandals involving priests around the world has shown these vows are often broken, although there are many examples of consensual sex by ministers.
It comes as the Church is surrounded by sexual abuse scandals involving its priests around the world
A litany of child sexual abuse scandals has rocked the Catholic church, which has 1.3 billion followers around the world.
In December the pontiff had vowed the church would never again treat abuse allegations without ‘seriousness and promptness’, calling on abusers to hand themselves in to police.
The Argentine has struggled to resolve the problem as the steady drip of scandal corrodes the church’s authority amid sharp divisions in Rome over how to handle the fallout, and an apparently endless stream of bad news.
Over the past four months, Roman Catholic dioceses across the U.S. have released the names of more than 1,000 priests and others accused of sexually abusing children in an unprecedented public reckoning spurred at least in part by a shocking grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania.