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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Holy See is continuing 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.
Rome has failed to respond nearly a decade after the U.N. directed the Holy See to "assess the number of children fathered by Catholic priests" and "find out who they are," Church Militant has learned.
The 2014 report authored by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child strongly urged the Holy See "to take all necessary measures to ensure that the rights of those [priests'] children to know and to be cared for by their fathers is respected, as appropriate."
Responding to demands from children of priests in Ireland, a second U.N. report, issued in 2016, urged the Irish Catholic Church to "ensure measures to assist children fathered by Catholic priests in upholding their right to know and be cared for by their fathers."
The U.N. also asked the Irish government to ensure that priests' children "born out of wedlock have legal certainty in respect of their family name" and that "measures are taken with a view to minimizing the stigma or discrimination that could be faced by such children."
The latest U.N. report, published in February 2023, urges the Catholic Church in Ireland to "strengthen measures to eliminate discrimination against ... the children of Catholic priests."
"The Vatican has dragged its heels on this issue, relegating us to invisibility, the invisible children," Vincent Doyle, the son of Fr. John J. Doyle, told Church Militant. "The response to the 2014 call by the U.N. to care for the children of priests and religious is long overdue."
Doyle, a psychotherapist who founded Coping International — an organization fighting for the rights of priests' children — asked the Irish government to act on the U.N. report.
In April, Claire Kerrane, an Irish member of parliament, issued a parliamentary question on the U.N. report, asking "what measures the State will implement to ensure the elimination of discrimination towards children of Catholic priests, as recommended by the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter."
Ireland's minister for children, Roderic O'Gorman, said officials in his department had previously raised the issue with the Irish Episcopal Conference. Further, each male religious congregation in Ireland was asked to notify O'Gorman's department if any current member has declared himself the father of a dependent child or children.
"Replies are still coming in from the congregations, and the next steps will be informed by the responses received. To date, 17 responses have been received, and no cases of children or young people currently under 18 have been identified," the minister stated.
Doyle, who grew up believing that Fr. Doyle, a diocesan priest, was his godfather, asked why the Irish state had children of diocesan priests from its analysis.
"For the Irish state to create an erroneous and misleading response to the U.N.'s directive concerning children of Catholic priests and religious is nothing short of a slap in the face, as if to say, 'such people do not exist.' Indeed, we remain in a permanent invisible state," Doyle told Church Militant.
Doyle revealed that he was first shown "secret" Vatican guidelines on dealing with priests who had fathered children in October 2017 by Abp. Ivan Jurkovič, the then-Vatican envoy to the U.N. in Geneva.
According to Cdl. Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, the guidelines were initially drafted in 2009 "under the guidance of Pope Benedict XVI" as a "working instrument to be referred to when presented with a situation of this kind."
The Vatican has refused to publish the guidelines, independently reiterating that they are "the same as those found in an interview" given by Cdl. Stella to Andrea Tornielli and published in Italian in the Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
The guidelines in the interview version say that its "main objective" is to "safeguard the good of the offspring, that is, the right of children to have a father beside them as well as a mother."
"A situation of this kind is considered 'irreversible' and requires that the priest abandon the clerical state, even if he considers himself suitable for the ministry," Stella stated in the interview.
In 2023, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors confirmed that it had begun the process of drawing up new guidelines.
In its 2014 report, the U.N. also expressed concern that the Church was offering child support to mothers of priests' children "only if they sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose any information about the child's father or the plan."
"The Committee also recommends that the Holy See ensure that churches no longer impose confidentiality agreements as a condition to providing mothers with financial plans to support their children," the report stated.
In a book by Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka titled On Heaven and Earth, the said that if one of his priests told him that "he has gotten a woman pregnant," he would help the priest "realize that natural law comes before his right as a priest."
"Therefore, he must leave his priestly ministry and take care of his child, even though he might decide not to marry that woman. Because just as the child has a right to have a mother, the child also has the right to have the face of a father," Bergoglio emphasized.
Shattered Vows, a book by former Dominican David Rice, reveals the approximate rates of priests who have "wives" and 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."
In Poland, a priest is ostracized from his community if he decides to leave the priesthood and marry his lover, but his "wife" and children are accepted in the local school and community in a "don't ask, don't tell" culture, Rice reports.
Rice narrates legal cases involving U.S. military chaplains in the '70s who were investigated for secret "wives." The "general investigation of all Catholic priests" in the Military Ordinariate showed evidence that some 70 of the priests "were most probably secretly married."
In 2022, Church Militant reported on studies that confirmed a significant number of priests had pressured vulnerable women to get abortions after impregnating them during illicit affairs, a new study on clerical sex abuse reveals.
"The immediate reaction of most clerical perpetrators who learn about their victims' pregnancy is to persuade them to have an abortion," Doris Reisinger, research fellow in the department of Catholic theology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, lamented.
Further, as Dr. Reisinger demonstrated in her research on "Reproductive Abuse in the Context of Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church," many of the priests actively assist in killing the baby by paying for the abortion or by bringing their victims to an abortion mill.
Church Militant asked Abp. Fortunatus Nwachukwu, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, why the Vatican had failed to substantively respond to the U.N. report, but there was no response as of press time.
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