Oz Senator Urges Probe into Priests’ Hidden Children

News: World News
by Jules Gomes  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 15, 2023   

Archbishop says Rome could remove celibacy rule for indigenous priests

You are not signed in as a Premium user; you are viewing the free version of this program. Premium users have access to full-length programs with limited commercials and receive a 10% discount in the store! Sign up for only one day for the low cost of $1.99. Click the button below.

BRISBANE, Australia (ChurchMilitant.com) - An Australian senator is calling for a national inquiry into the children of Catholic priests after some priests' children reported that authorities were destroying or concealing records to prevent the offspring of clergy from tracking down their fathers. 

Fr. Vincent Shiel, father of Brendan Watkins

"There clearly needs to be an inquiry which has the power to compel the truth out of the Church," Sen. David Shoebridge from New South Wales told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday. 

Shoebridge noted that the "extraordinary" phenomenon of the disappearance of birth records and baptism certificates in the case of priests' children seems "to show a national undocumented trade in babies being run by the Catholic Church."

"From a systemic level, it raises just so many troubling questions about what happened and where the documents now lie," the senator remarked. "We cannot leave these people who were literally stolen at birth by the Church to do this fight alone."

"This is a matter that I think needs to be closely considered by the federal attorney general and by the federal government — the fact that it was happening all over the country and the fact that these children were moving across borders," Shoebridge emphasized.

Explosive Revelations

Shoebridge's call for a federal inquiry follows the publication of Tell No One — Brendan Watkins' memoir recounting his three-decade quest to find his biological parents and his startling revelation that his birth parents were a Catholic priest and a nun.

Watkins, who was unable to track down his birth records and baptism certificate, recounts meeting other children of priests trying to track down their birth parents. Those other children also reported "destroyed records" and "systems within the Church [for] hiding the children of priests and documents going astray." 

Hello, father Father. I'm the son of a preacher man. 

"When I was eight years old, my parents told me I was adopted. In my late 20s, I found out the identity of my birth mother — but she wanted nothing to do with me," Watkins laments. "In 2018, a DNA test led me to the truth." 

"I'm the son of a celebrated missionary priest. He had studied in a Trappist monastery in Ireland, had a career as a builder, was a Bondi Lifesaver, a trophy-winning ballroom dancer, was a landscape painter, met Mother Teresa and toured the world," Watkins writes.

rome dispatch: Report Reveals Shocking Sexual Predation at French Religious Order

Watkins names his biological priest-father in his book: 

As I digested this news, I recalled a photograph of Fr. Vincent Shiel we'd found on Trove a couple of weeks earlier. The weary, grey-bearded, old priest stared straight back at me. Hello, father Father. I'm the son of a preacher man. I was 57-years-old and for the first time in my life I knew for certain who both of my birth parents were.

Watkins' mother, Sr. Maggie, confirmed he was indeed the son of Fr. Vincent Shiel, who died in 1993, at the age of 90. Father Shiel had sworn his mother to secrecy — a pact Watkins has labeled "spiritual abuse." 

It is DNA, God's fingerprint on us that will unseal the mouths of the children of ordained priests and religious.

Addressing the issue of the missing paper trail for priests' children, Charlotte Smith, chief executive of Vanish, an advocacy agency for adopted persons in Victoria, says, "Records have been known to fall off the back of a truck or be destroyed in fires." 

DNA Discoveries

"The Vatican Congregation for Clergy, in a pre-COVID, in-person conversation, recognized the reality that home DNA testing has begun to unearth paternities and secrets once considered long buried," Chevalier Vincent Doyle, founder of Coping International, told Church Militant. 

Fr. John Doyle and his son Vincent Doyle

"Right now, as we speak, thanks to DNA, I am dealing with the case of a 76-year-old person who is the child of a deceased Italian archbishop who has suffered immeasurably, and DNA has proven the link," Doyle, the son of Fr. John J. Doyle, an Irish Catholic priest, revealed.

"It is DNA, God's fingerprint on us that will unseal the mouths of the children of ordained priests and religious, welded shut at conception. Now, it is up to the Vatican to respond with courage," Doyle noted.

Coping International, an apostolate dedicated to children of priests and religious, receives thousands of inquiries from priests' children in 176 countries.

In February, Doyle was made "knight commander of grace of confraternity" of the Knights of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Priest's Daughter Seeks Recognition

Meanwhile, Linda Kelly-Lawless, daughter of Fr. Joseph Kelly, is seeking official recognition of her ancestry from the Catholic Church through Melbourne's archbishop, Peter Comensoli.

Father Kelly, who came regularly to offer Mass for unwed pregnant mothers at St. Joseph's Receiving Home in Carlton, was having an affair with Linda Lawless' mother — a Catholic who was not at the adoption home.

Linda Lawless and her father, Fr. Joseph Kelly

"Only a few months later, he was actually using the adoption system to get rid of me, which happened the following year," Lawless told ABC News. "And when I was born ... my paperwork was never finished and ... seemed to vanish from this hospital. All my paperwork has 'baby for adoption,' false names; I can't find my baptism records."

"There is no denying the historical fact that priests have fathered children," Abp. Comensoli agreed. "The Church now steps forward in finding ways to acknowledge children who have priests as their father[s]." 

Lawless says she is not seeking legal compensation but has asked for a letter of recognition from the archdiocese acknowledging that Fr. Kelly is her biological father and has also asked for an apology for her mother.

In an email to Doyle dated April 28, 2022, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference confirmed that it has established a Bishops Commission for Professional Standards and Safeguarding, which has responsibility for preparing guidelines for children of priests.

Archbishop Urges Ending Celibacy

On Monday, the archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, urged the Vatican to end mandatory celibacy for indigenous Australian priests, arguing that there was "no way you're going to recruit a celibate clergy in those cultures."

Coleridge cited the example of Patrick Dodson, the only man from an indigenous community to be ordained a priest. Dobson left the priesthood to become a prominent Labor Party senator in Australia and a leading figure in the aboriginal reconciliation movement.

You can't have the white fella providing leadership.

"You can't have the white fella providing leadership; you've got to provide leadership from within the indigenous communities, Coleridge said. "I don't think the end of celibacy is nigh, but I'm also convinced that the question won't go away, especially for communities like our indigenous peoples."

A significant number of priests have pressured vulnerable women to get abortions after impregnating them during illicit affairs, a 2022 study on clerical sex abuse concluded.

Reproductive Abuse

The peer-reviewed study titled "Reproductive Abuse in the Context of Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church" revealed that many of the priests actively assist in killing the baby by paying for the abortion or by bringing their victims to an abortion mill.

"The immediate reaction of most clerical perpetrators who learn about their victims' pregnancy is to persuade them to have an abortion," lamented author Dr. Doris Reisinger, research fellow in the department of Catholic theology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. 

Sen. David Shoebridge

In April, Church Militant reported on the Holy See's attempt to continue to draw a veil over the "invisible" children of thousands of priests, despite three United Nations reports asking the Vatican to protect the rights of children fathered by clerics.

In his groundbreaking book Celibacy in Crisis: A Secret World Revisited, former Benedictine monk and Catholic priest Richard Sipe concluded that while only "2% of vowed clergy can be said to have achieved celibacy," at least "5% of priests are involved with problematic sexual behaviors — transvestitism, exhibitionism, pornography or compulsive masturbation."

Around "40% of priests do practice celibacy, but their practice is not established enough to mark it as either consolidated or achieved. And indeed, these priests are open to sexual reversals and experimentation as well as progress," he noted. 

While 8% of priests had "consolidated celibate practice beyond the point of expectable reversal in spite of some past failures," 30% were involved in heterosexual relationships, and 15% were engaged in homosexual relationships, experimentation or behaviors.

Shattered Vows, a book by ex-Dominican David Rice, reveals the rates of priests who have "wives" and hidden children in countries like Peru (80%), Brazil (60–70%), the Philippines (50%) and a diocese in Zaire (100%), with some Zairian priests having more than one "wife."

--- Campaign 31877 ---


Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.

We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on ChurchMilitant.com you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines

Loading Comments