MEXICO CITY – Four priests assigned to the archdiocese of the central Mexican state of Puebla have decided to leave the Catholic Church because they have girlfriends and children, a situation that is incompatible with the celibacy rule.
Archdiocese spokesman Eugenio Lira told Efe on Thursday that the priests made their decision after individual conversations with Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinoza, who explained to them the incompatibility of their positions with the family situations.
Lira said that the archbishop, who assumed that office last April, knew that some of the priests had girlfriends and children, and so he ordered an investigation.
Once the information was confirmed, he said, the archbishop called the priests in to have a private conversation with each one.
The spokesman said that for some time The Vatican has felt that priests who do not follow the celibacy rule “should separate themselves from the priestly ministry” and dedicate themselves to attending to their new responsibilities.
He said that, contrary to what has been published in some media outlets, the priests in question may not carry out any priestly duties, whether baptism, hearing confession, celebrating Mass, or administering last rites.
In addition, the priests cannot live in church facilities or receive income from the church for their living expenses or for their dependents, since “this is their responsibility, not that of the Archdiocese of Puebla.”
Lira told Efe that the priests have received high level academic training and are able to teach at any level, as has been the case with other priests who have left the Church.
He also said that in this case, the names of the priests will not be made public to avoid any potential actions against them by third parties.
The spokesman said that Protestant churches permit their pastors to have families, and he considered that a “respectable” decision, but he reiterated that the Catholic Church had maintained the celibacy rule since the Middle Ages.
He added that the Church also does not tolerate cases of sexual abuse, in which the full weight of the law must be brought to bear.
The former archbishop of Puebla, Rosendo Huesca Pacheco, was much criticized by civil groups for defending – along with Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera – former priest Nicolas Aguilar, who was accused of sexual abuse of minors and is a fugitive from U.S. justice.
The Mexican Catholic Church suffered severe discredit after the founder of the Legionnaires of Christ, the Rev. Marcial Maciel (1929-2008), was accused of sexual abuse of minors and of his colleagues, as a result of which The Vatican ordered him to retire from public life during the last years of his life. EFE