French bishops’ conference to hear testimonies from children of priests

Vatican City, May 20, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- French bishops will meet with the children of priests in June to hear their testimonies of hidden suffering.

Monsignor Olivier Ribadeu Dumas, secretary of the French bishops’ conference, confirmed that three members of the French association Children of Silence will share their stories June 13 at the Bishops Conference of France headquarters in Paris, Le Monde reported.

The president of Children of Silence, Anne-Marie Jarzac, called the June meeting a welcome step. Jarzac met previously with Msgr. Dumas and Father Emmanuel Coquet in February in preparation for the June testimony.

“It was a very moving moment,” Jarzac told Le Monde. “For the first time, we felt that the Church opened its doors to us, that there was no more denial, but a listening and an awareness of what we have lived.”

Jarzac is the daughter of a priest and a nun. She leads the French association for children of priests with more than 50 members.

In February 2019, the Vatican confirmed the existence of an internal document from the Congregation of Clergy outlining criteria on the protection of children of priests. “Notes concerning the practice of the Congregation for the Clergy with regard to clerics with children” is a template document used to aid individual bishops dealing with these cases.

In many cases involving priestly paternity, priests either request dispensation or are dismissed from the clerical state because of the parental responsibility and obligation owed to the child.

“Each case is examined on its merits and its own particular circumstances,” Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, told L’Osservatore Romano in an interview Feb. 27. Stella also noted that exceptions to the loss of the clerical state are rare.

“The child’s well-being and care of the child must be at the centre of attention for the Church, so that the child does not lack, not only the necessities of life, but especially the educative role and the affection of a father,” Cardinal Stella said.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy also responded to claims that the existence of children of priests somehow undermines the value of priestly celibacy in the Church.

“The fact that some priests have experienced relationships and have brought children into the world does not affect the theme of priestly celibacy, which represents a precious gift for the Latin church, the ever-present value of which has been expressed by the recent Popes, from St. Paul VI to Pope Francis,” he said.

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