Sunday, August 02, 2009

Amnesty for priest-fathers?

UPDATE 8/3/2009: In response to inquiries about the story that appeared yesterday, the Vatican press spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi today denied that any such meetings are taking place and called the La Stampa account baseless. I'm leaving both versions up and you can decide what you want to believe. So far, La Stampa has not responded, modified or retracted their initial story.

Some very exciting news out of Rome today. The Italian newspaper La Stampa reports that the Congregation for the Clergy is holding a series of meetings about the issue of priests who have fathered children out of wedlock, essentially aiming to take a pro-active approach to the issue and avert the onslaught of expensive lawsuits that accompanied the sex abuse scandal.

According to La Stampa, some components of the suggested solution, which is based somewhat on the pastoral provision that has allowed for an influx of married priests from other denominations into the Catholic priesthood, include allowing the priests to publicly acknowledge their offspring and give them their last names without losing their clerical positions. The priest's assets would be divided into personal vs. ecclesial and the priest would be able to give his children support and an inheritance from his personal assets, such as his clerical stipend or salary.

Some experts quoted in the article are even suggesting that this might also be paving the way for allowing priests who have sought formal dispensation to get married and who continue to be of good character, to return to some kind of pastoral role, given the indelibility of the sacrament of Holy Orders.

It's not a lot but it's a little sign of hope. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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