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Cardinal O'Malley: Priest who fathers child has moral obligation to child, mother


Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley speaks during a seminar on safeguarding children at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome March 23. CNS photo/Paul Haring

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BOSTON (CNS) -- If a Catholic priest violates his vow of celibacy and fathers a child, he has "a moral obligation to step aside from ministry and provide for the care and needs of the mother and the child," said Boston Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.

"In such a moment, their welfare is the highest priority," he said in a statement issued after the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe produced a two-part series Aug. 16 and 17 titled "Father, my father." Part 1 was headlined "Children of Catholic priests live with secrets and sorrow" and Part 2, "A priest's son takes his case directly to the pope."

"The gift of life must be protected and cared for in any and all circumstances," Cardinal O'Malley said in an Aug. 16 statement. "Every child is a precious gift from God, deserving the respect accorded to all people. At their ordination, Catholic priests make a promise of celibacy, a commitment to the church and the people they serve."

Cardinal O'Malley said that in 2016 the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he heads, had received "correspondence regarding the children of priests. After careful consideration of this important issue, it was judged to be beyond the commission's mandate."

"With recognition of the importance of these matters that have profoundly impacted the lives of the children, their mothers and the community at large, the commission determined to refer this issue to the Holy See for further review," the cardinal said.

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