New guidelines approved by the country’s Catholic bishops for priests with children could be adopted by the Vatican, it has emerged.
They were produced by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference following discussions with a Galway-based psychotherapist, Vincent Doyle, whose late father was a priest.
The guidelines, yet to be published, state that a priest who fathers a child should not walk away from his responsibilities — legal, moral, and financial.
The Vatican faces a September deadline to respond to a request from the UN on the issue of children fathered by priests.
It is understood that the Vatican was asked to assess the number of children fathered by priests and to find out who they were.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is anxious that all necessary measures are taken to ensure that the rights of the children to know and be cared for by their fathers is respected.
Mr Doyle, founder of Coping International, which offers support for children of priests, has been asked by the Vatican to recommend global guidelines for priests with children.
The website (copinginternational.com) was established in 2014, and is funded by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.
“We wanted to see how many people out there were actually looking for help. It was picked up by over 13,500 people in 175 countries with hits numbering over 400,000,” said Mr Doyle on RTÉ radio.
“Those figures are certainly speculative, but they are indicative of a global need.”
Mr Doyle said he was a practising Catholic and his faith had helped him to cope. He also said Church theology underpinned the formation of Coping International.
If the Church respected life at all of its stages, then it was not in favour of stigmatising an individual.
“If the Pope announced tomorrow morning that he was going to abolish celibacy, I would say, ‘Great, that’s fine, but it does not solve the issue of children who suffered to date’.”
Mr Doyle said there are children fathered by priests who are not acknowledged — that is the issue. “Not focussing on that allows deflection which compounds the problem.”
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