LA’s Bishop Zavala resigns, admits fathering two children

Rocco broke the news this morning, and now there’s more:

In a surprise move, B16 has accepted the early resignation of LA Auxiliary Gabino Zavala, who turned 60 last September.

While rumors of unspecified Vatican concerns over Zavala have circulated for some time, and have intensified over recent months, Catholic News Servicereported this morning via Twitter that the bishop’s resignation was accepted after he confessed to having fathered two children.

In a letter to the Los Angeles church, Archbishop José Gomez wrote that the auxiliary “informed [him] in early December that he is the father of two minor teenage children, who live with their mother in another state.”

Since submitting his resignation to Benedict shortly thereafter, Zavala “has not been in ministry and will be living privately,” the archbishop said.

Gomez added that the LA church will assist the teens with their college costs.

Ordained to assist Cardinal Roger Mahony at age 43 in 1994, the Mexican-born Zavala — until now the senior auxiliary of the nation’s largest diocese — had been in the final year of his term as Chair of Communications for the US bishops.

The longtime bishop-president of the Stateside branch of Pax Christi,he previously made national headlines for advocating a more progressive stance on church teaching in the public square during the 2008 elections, and a prominent speech that lambasted “blogs” that “engage in attacks and hurtful, judgmental language… assume the role of Magisterium and judge others in the church” during the 2010 Catholic Press Convention in New Orleans.

Reacting to the news, all one longtime friend of Zavala’s among the Angeleno crowd could say was, “I’m numb.”

The letter from Archbishop Gomez is at the link, along with more details.

I worked with Bishop Zavala when he chaired the USCCB’s Communications Committee.  “Numb” about sums it up.  He’s a kind, thoughtful, unfailingly joyful man.  My prayers go out to him and those who love him.



  1. This is sad news for the Church in L.A. and throughout the United States. I have been admirer of Bishop Zavala for many years. Agreed: Many prayers for him, his children, their mother, the L.A. archdiocese and Pax Christi USA.

  2. Vox borealis says:

    One gets the impression that diocese is a mess. Maybe I’m wrong.

  3. How could this have gone undetected so long. Amazing.

  4. ron chandonia says:

    For years, I was very active in Pax Christi, and I certainly applauded Bishop Zavala’s 2008 and 2010 remarks, so I am deeply troubled by this news. On one hand, of course, this is simply the story of one individual’s personal choices and their consequences. But it also raises a question often broached by those Catholics who take issue with Bishop Zavala’s public statements: Why do self-styled peace-and-justice Catholics so often choose to live in ways that contradict the traditional teachings of the Church about personal/sexual morality? Such a question surely implies too broad a generalization, but I do think that many Catholics today have come to suspect that passionate advocacy of Catholic social teachings is a convenient cover for those who find Catholic sexual morality overly restrictive. Examples of “Ted Kennedy Catholics” abound, and I am saddened that a bishop now seems to have joined their ranks.

  5. Deacon Mike says:

    I understand what you’re saying, Ron, but as I think you indicate in your post, it is a stereotype, as is the use of the term “Ted Kennedy Catholic” (which, by the way, is a terribly cruel use of the deceased Mr. Kennedy’s name, the state of whom’s soul is known only to him and to God.) These sorts of stereoptypes are always harmful and without merit. There are millions of “peace and justice” Catholics who live fully the moral teachings of the Church….there are also those who fail. The same is true of more “traditional” Catholics; i.e. Fr. Corapi, Fr. Euteneur, et. al. Individuals fail, not members of certain groups. To paint people with that sort of brush is neither fair nor just. The vast majority of “Peace and Justice” Catholics aren’t using it as a “cover”, they are simply interested in peace and justice, as was our Lord.

  6. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Amen, Mike.

    If the stories of Bishop Zavala, Fr. Corapi, Fr. Euteneur and others teach us anything, it is that we are all human, we are all broken, and we all need God’s grace.

    I’m reminded of something a priest friend told me not long after he was ordained. I was just beginning formation. “Protect your vocation,” he told me. “There’s a lot out there that will try to hurt it.” He was right. It’s something we easily forget.

    Dcn. G.

  7. This story reiterates how important it is for the laity to “look after” their shepherds. I have no qualms telling a priest how bad it looks when he is spending too much time with a female parishioner. I took a priest to task last year, because I noticed him texting quite often and I knew the lady whom he was texting. Although she denied it, I could tell she had a crush on him. She spoke about him all the time, in the same manner a love-sick school girl talks about her guy. She also started inviting him places. I was very blunt and told Father that she seemed to be attracted to him, and he needed to know that. Even when he reassured me that he would never put his priesthood in jeopardy, I insisted he needed to find other means to help the women who flock to him for spiritual direction, especially those types that are so emotionally dependent, they find themselves vying for his affection. I also spoke to the lady about this. After I brought it all to the forefront, they both stopped their text-flirting and kept their distance. IF not for my “embarassing” them, who knows what could have happened…

  8. Why do we hear of all these stories of Latin Rite Catholic priests, yet this doesn’t seem to be a problem with Orthodox priests.
    I am not implying that celibacy is the problem. I am saying that there is something really wrong in the clergy. I don’t know if it’s in the seminary, in the way priests live their life, or what? Do Catholic priests live in the same way as Orthodox priests do with the same level of spirituality? Is it something that simply cannot be spoken that all clergy kind of know but refuse to say?
    All I know is that something is really wrong.

  9. Regina J. Faighes says:

    Your priest friend is very wise, Deacon Greg. Satan hates vocations to the clergy and the religious life. I believe that in Bishop Zavala’s case, he used a woman as his instrument of temptation. I always remember our priests, deacons, brothers, sisters, and seminarians in my prayers.

  10. Dan S.: The Orthodox Church is small in the US and has its own scandals. It just doesn’t get the press of the Catholic Church.

    [Comment edited to remove unsubstantiated rumors. -- Ed.]

  11. This might be a dumb question, but did he HAVE to resign? Are we not all sinners in need of redemption?
    Does his resigning mean he feels more drawn to the pull of family life than to his priestly vocation? Does the fact he has biological children somehow automatically disqualify him to be a priest? I understand he broke his vows, but is there no opportunity for redemption?
    I am asking in all sincerity. We all stumble, don’t we?

  12. Oregon Catholic says:

    I have been thinking along these lines myself recently. Something is really wrong when a bishop can live such a deceitful and double life.

  13. vox borealis says:

    I’m sure he did not *have* to resign, but even if he had not, surely he would have been restricted from any sort of legitimate public ministry. In the meanwhile, the cleansing of the house of Mahoney continues painfully on its way.

  14. Oregon Catholic says:

    I think you just illustrated Dan’s point that something is very wrong in the Roman clergy.

  15. vox borealis says:

    The reality is, of course, that something is very wrong with a very small minority of the Roman clergy. Now, if we could just isolate what variables *tend* to be shared by these troubled clergy…

  16. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    Yes, there are abundant opportunities for redemption, and I hope Bishop Zavala takes advantage of them. There is no indication that he is leaving the priesthood, or that he plans to get married. Other high-profile priests who have had affairs — Fr. Michael Manning and Fr. Euteneur come to mind — have been permitted to continue as priests, after a period of penance.

    Fathering children no doubt complicates the Zavala situation, but I don’t know if it changes things canonically.

    Dcn. G.

  17. Nicholas S. says:

    Where’s the pro-life attitude here ? Does anyone really believe Satan could ever be the reason life came into the world? No, this comment is not well thought-out. Mandatory celibacy is at best an honor system, utterly unenforceable by anyone, whether it be the Ordinary of a Diocese or the laity. Obviously Bishop Zavala had a private life, and yet carried out all his responsbilities, well enough to merit consideration to Apostolic Succession, despite other comments about being “unsuitable.” A man can have a family and serve God and Church – as mentioned above, the Orthodox acknowledge this charism. The teaching that ministry and family are mutually exclusive needs to be re-examined !

  18. “I do think that many Catholics today have come to suspect that passionate advocacy of Catholic social teachings is a convenient cover …”

    More often I hear that people who get suspiciously preachy about moral issues likely have moral peccadillos of their own dominating their personal closets.

    A bishop who cannot keep a vow of celibacy is troubling. More troubling are bishops, notable conservative bishops like George, Rigali, and Finn, who cannot manage criminals in their own clergy, and who, in some instances, have cooperated directly with evil, placing innocents in ham’s way by a failure to act, and a willingness to be hoodwinked by sex addicts.

    Sin knows no ideology. And conservative, moral people have no monopoly on saintliness, no matter how hard they make the pelagian attempt.

  19. pagansister says:

    I’m sure he isn’t the first priest to have fathered children after the Church decided (a long time ago) to stop allowing priests to be married. IMO, there are priests out there who are not celibate, but have made sure no children resulted from their lack of celibacy.

  20. -dn. mike- says:

    You are the only bishop I ever addressed by his first name.

    You were always the best bishop to me. We love you, and of course we still think the world of you.

    You are in our hearts and our prayers.
    -dn. mike & Rose-

  21. How utterly sad that we cannot share Archbishop Gomez’s pastoral and charitable approach of requesting prayer for all concerned, without turning this into yet one more occasion to point the finger of politics, or worse, to paint women as temptresses out to lure unsuspecting priests into sin. One more example, as if one were needed, that we are sorely lacking a vocabulary for discussing sexuality and relationships with any degree of maturity or candor or compassion, let alone preparing men for and supporting them in lives of the celibacy we profess to be a charism.

  22. We don’t know who tempted who. Takes two to tango…and stuff.

  23. We have just had several posts, here and elsewhere, about how it hurts kids not to grow up with both parents. Perhaps it may be the bishop’s duty at this point to seek laicization and be a part of his children’s lives. I don’t know what his relationship is with the kids’ mother; this may or may not include marriage to her. Granted that it’s more than a day late and a dollar short, but better late than never.

  24. Ronald King says:

    Maybe love was stronger than being a priest. Those who commented on him being a good man know that good men are loving men. He had to love in the shadow out of human sight. Being a man of faith, I am sure that he knew he was not out of God’s sight. Is there something more here to be learned about God, love and human relationships rather than the standard tradition of celebacy?

  25. vox borealis says:

    What an odd analysis: you seem to contrast “love” and “being a priest,” yet all of the priests with whom I have spoken are deeply in love, with the church and their vocation to the priesthood. The many good priests I know are indeed, therefore, loving men. Thus, I reject your apparent formulation that the “standard tradition of celebacy [sic]” (whatever that means) is in any way contrary to love.

  26. How easily is laicization granted? Am I correct in thinking that just asking for it doesn’t mean it will be granted and that in some periods of time, it was granted infrequently?

  27. Nicholas- In Orthodoxy, Bishops are not married and priests cannot be married after ordination. This bishop defiled his vows

  28. I commend you, Patricia!

  29. Married men might have a bit more family support- but then he will have other stresses- it is a matter of vocation and also mental and spiritual health

  30. pagansister- the order of the sacraments have been marriage FIRST then deacon, priest (bishops reserved for monks=celibate)- so yes, the discipline of celibacy has changed, but this bishop couldn’t be married now

  31. if you mean lust being love, then you are correct that it is stronger than being a priest. Because a REAL MAN could be ordained priest and then bishop- fall in ‘love’ with a woman but do nothing to make her life and future children a living hell. If he really loved this woman, she would never know and she could go on to have a normal life free of drama and sin with an available man.

  32. Regina Faighes says:


  33. Regina Faighes says:

    “Good men are loving men”–Yes, good men feel agape for all mankind. This is quite different from eros.

  34. Nicholas S, I don’t see this changing any time soon as the Catholic Church seems to be very strongly attached to the understanding that a priest with his vows has a bride in the Church. However, as we see the influx of married clergy from other religions becoming priests, it certainly strains this belief. It is interesting to note that many of those married who do become Catholic priest speak out in support of the continued celebacy being one that is positive. Father Dwight Longenecker is one who has spoken very strongly and with good convincing arguments on this topic.

    However, the issue is one who takes a vow and then not only breaks the vow, but tries to hide it and does it more than once with out of wedlock births.

    I also think it is interesting that he had taken a very vocal position on the liberal side of how the Church should teach on voting issues and had come into conflict with many other bishops on this issue. This will not help that cause. However, everyone sins no one should take any joy when a priest or especially a bishop falls prey to Satan who has a special hatred of those who take up the cross to follow Christ in priestly vocation.

  35. I don’t have any personal knowledge or connection with Bishop Zavala–never heard his name until today. I’m not in a position to comment on his accomplishments, ministry, etc. But a couple of things really jumped out at me as being significant in reading this story. The first is how many others were aware of this bishop’s double life. Human nature being what it is, I can’t imagine that only a limited number of people were aware of this or were able to keep quiet about it for so long. Life doesn’t work like that. Granted, we are not talking about keeping the secret of abuse to a minor–this is a relationship involving adults. But it gives scandal and breaks trust with the faithful, neglects the children involved and offends God. Those who knew about it and looked the other way are also accountable. Secondly–why is the diocese offering to assist these children with college tuition? I realize this issue is not on the same level as other concerns in this case, but in my mind the good people of Los Angeles should not be forced to provide the post-secondary education costs of the bishop’s children. College tuition is not a basic need like housing, food, clothing or health care. How many kids are on their own to come up with loans, military service, etc, to fund their college costs? Bishop Zavala needs to come up with his own plan!

  36. Todd, there is truth that all are susceptible to the temptation of Satan. Of those you named, none as far as I know ever molested a child themselves or fathered two children out of wedlock. In most instances, theirs is a failure to act with an eye to first protect children from abuse of one kind or another. However, their offenses have to be taken in measure against the bishops who support those who have a direct impact on the slaughter of innocent babies in the millions. I just read that last year more babies were killed in the womb than the total of all abused children in the last 60 years by priests. Bishops who give aid and comfort to those who kill babies as it appears this Bishop did in the last election have a lot to answer to with God and there is no arguing the case that their support of pro abortion politicians by giving room for them to be pro abortion and seek out Catholic vote has a very direct impact.

  37. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    That’s a cheap shot, and close to libel, and you know it. Prove how Zavala was a bishop “who gives aid and comfort to those who kill babies.”

    Dcn. G.

  38. Oregon Catholic says:

    IMO an honorable man would have resigned and requested laicization once he knew he had fathered a child and I think most people would understand and be compassionate about such a human failure. The second child and the years of ongoing deception as a BISHOP!! – not so much.

  39. I have to agree with Laura on the college tuition. It would have been nice to get some diocesan help for our own children…or even ourselves for school especially since we have been supporting dioceses and parishes for years. I understand human nature and certainly can’t cast stones from my glass house, but that bit of news should have remained private or better yet, former Bishop Zavala needs to take care of his family now the way we all do these days…by working regular job(s) and applying for subsidized/or unsubsidized loans or grants to help finance education. It’s all about choices…and I am glad that he made the choice to come clean. However, now the reality of the situation and the consequences need to be dealt with. It is a healthy reminder to all (especially myself) that one must live the life one preaches because if you don’t, it will ALWAYS comes back to bite you.

  40. So the first thing I thought was, “Whew! A relationship with one adult woman! A sinner, but not a pervert!”


  41. Are children not angels of God? Why can’t he be given a chance. He has done so much for other people in need. It’s time the community now gives back to Bishop Zavala and let’s accept tht qafter all he is human. He has gone through a lot of suffering all these years. Fisrt keeping his chldren a secret and second deceiving his vows.

  42. “that the LA church will assist the teens with their college costs”????

    I assume that everyone in the diocese was asked to vote on the matter, and they unanimously approved.

    Aren’t there children of less despicable parents that could use the money?

    And TWO children, so he couldn’t even stop at one?

    Am I the only one who thinks there are more than two?

  43. Ronald King says:

    If you do not know what something means then ask questions. You are the one contrasting and being a priest. I am talking about a priest loving a woman, not lusting.
    To priest’ wife, You bring up lust not I. Shows where your mind is.
    To Regina, Love incorporates agape and eros.
    To vb, it is an odd analysis because you do not think like I do. I do not find your analysis odd because it is simple and predictable. At times, I just think why do I expect anything different than the simple answers of indoctrination:(

  44. Ronald King says:

    Good men feel both agape and eros. Actually, eros can fuel agape to a sacrificial love. Come on, you should know that.

  45. Hint: it was covered up, which is a Catholic church specialty.

    The children were teenagers, and there were two, and they didn’t feed themselves, so I’m guessing Zavala somehow got money to them, which parishioners should investigate. Thankfully, the parishioners will pay for college for these children as opposed to using the money for starving children or more deserving children.

    And seriously, this bishop couldn’t even stop after ONE child?

  46. I crown this comment as correct with my intuition.

    Only The Holy Trinity is Holy.
    Everyone else has to pray hard not to fall into temptation.

  47. vox borealis says:

    Well OK, then I’ll ask: what does your reply mean? Because it does not make sense to me. Your initial comment said that the bishop chose love over being a priest. That is an implicit, verging on explicit, contrasting of “love” over the “priesthood.” I find that formulation odd, and still do.

    Indeed, I will go further and say that your premise is simply wrong. He did not choose love (here I assume you mean his relationship with a woman and their kids) over being a priest. Rather, he remained a priest (bishop) in public, while hiding his family away in another state. If anything, he chose being a priest (in public) over “love” (as you designate it), or perhaps better: he wanted to have both until 15 years later he got caught, and so now he is resigning.

    Fair enough.

    What does this episode teach us? I’m not sure. We are all called to vocations, and many of us still take vows, whether as clergy or religious or married individuals. We are promise to be faithful to our vows. Many times we fail and are unfaithful, whether that infidelity means cheating on our wife or husband, or cheating the Church.

  48. What is going on with priests this week?

    First a Bishop fathering children, next a Bishop Raymond Lahe who brokered child abuse lawsuits gets sentenced to jail for child porn, then San Diego priest Jose Davila is arrested for sexual assault, and now Father Sorensen of St. John Fisher Church, was gets a Federal indictment for child porn. All in one week.

  49. Ronald King says:

    vb, Very well stated. I should have been clearer. I should have stated he let fear dominate his life more than love as I think about it now. If love for another human being was stronger than love for the priesthood or love for God then in my opinion it would not have happened the way it did. He would have been open and honest from the beginning. So it appears that the conflict of love and fear dominated his lifeand resulted in secrecy instead of openness and honesty. I have been married 36 years so I do understand fidelity and I do understand temptation and the power of choice. Thanks for your feedback.

  50. FrMichael,
    There are about 300 million Orthodox in the world. The problems in the Catholic priesthood are not confined to America, but seem to also be quite present in both Europe and Latin America.
    This is an honest question: Do priests, nowadays, live their vocation as called apart so that their time is spent in the time of prayer and fasting that Orthodox priests engage in.
    Do all Catholic priests regularly pray the hours, and devote time to the spiritual practices of the Latin Rite like the Orthodox priests do of the Eastern Rite?
    I do not mean to condemn priests, but from my perspective as a Latin Rite Catholic who is drawn to Eastern Catholicism/Orthodoxy, I just see a much different outward appearance of Eastern priests in the way they conduct themselves. I don’t know why but I get a feeling that there is a connection here somewhere.
    Have Catholic priests become too secular and has that affected their vocation to holiness at all times?

  51. Patrick, exactly what do you have against these two children? Precisely how are they to blame for their father’s poor (yet human) decisions? While I understand that most parishioners around the country who are parents (me included) will be struggling with college costs, it seems to me that the LA archdiocese is doing nothing more than the reasonable and decent thing — acknowledging that these two children exist, and recognizing that they are likely in a very difficult situation through of their own. A little compassion and charity seems to be called for here — especially with regard to these two teens who, again, did not do anything bad. (Praise God that they exist — they are children of God.)

  52. “Have Catholic priests become too secular and has that affected their vocation to holiness at all times?”

    I don’t think priests have been affected any more than the laity. Everyone is called to holiness at Baptism not only the clergy.

  53. naturgesetz says:

    Since when does the entire diocese vote on the use of funds? If you were a Catholic, you’d know that it is never done.

  54. Our priest r imperfect human beings just like we r and fall prey t evil as well. We must forgive and pray for them!

  55. Men of great religious faith fall all the time – Jim Swaggert, Jim Bakker, the pastor of large southern baptist denomination, etc. None of them (or us!) are immune from sinning. The problem lies where there is no accountability. With too much power it’s human nature to be tempted to take advantage. Politicians can be used as examples too – Clinton, Bosevich and others who have fallen. I grieve for this priest and all involved in this deceit. The good news is Jesus can forgive and does forgive when we repent and FLEE the other way but that doesn’t free us from restitution for wrongs committed. Satan is only too eager to bring down Godly men and women and have us wallow in self hatred for the rest of our lives. As Christians we must reach out to those who have fallen and never take it for granted that we are free from temptation.

  56. pagansister says:

    If he left the Church, priests wife, he could then marry—however it might be a little late now. Wonder if the mother of those 2 children would even want to marry him, if he left the Church. I do find it interesting that the kids will have college costs paid for by the LA church. Doesn’t the bishop get paid anything by the Church?

  57. The finances have already been investigated and show no wrong doing.

  58. Deacon, in many articles about this Bishop, it was widely reported he was instramental in the election of Obama, especially with the Latino community, by not stressing that Catholics must have a “proportionate reason” to support a pro abortion candidate as we had with Obama as called for in the USCCB citizenship guide.

    It is my view that this assisted in a strongly pro abortion president being elected and from that more children being killed in the womb. I know that many ignore that phrase “proportionate reason” but it is one that was clearly stressed by Archbishop Chaput as well in links I have provided here as well as the head of the Supreme Court in the Vatican, Cardinal Burke. What can be found to vote for a pro abortion candidate when we are seeing 4000 babies a day being killed that could in any way be a proportionate reason? I have yet to have anyone point this out. Is there a doubt that if Catholics made clear to the party that supports abortion that none will vote for their candidates until the drop support for this holocaust of our children, that they would have to stop supporting abortion or go out of existence?

  59. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    Don’t use red meat rhetoric like “giving aid and comfort to those who kill babies” when he did nothing of the sort. That’s inflammatory, and a slur, and you know it.

    I know this is an emotional and personal issue for you, “Mark.” But try not to sink that low, “Mark.”

    You want to comment here? You want to be a part of the conversation? Then be civil and play fair. I’m giving you a wide berth. Don’t abuse it. Or you’ll be banned. Again.

    Dcn. G.

  60. John Shuster says:

    This “Father” claims to lead a life of Roman Catholic ideals and positions himself as a moral compass to the community as a bishop. Despite his cover of “good works”, Zavala is a man with neither honor nor integrity. He is a big phony who will likely start to whine soon about how he is a victim of one sort or another.

    [Edited to remove unsubstantiated allegations -- Ed.]

  61. Dan S.:

    I don’t have experience working with Orthodox outside the US. OTOH I have spent an unusual amount of time (for Roman priests) working with Orthodox (Greek and Russian/OCA) priests in the US. All I can say is that there are considerable cultural differences, along with the homosexualization of the RC priesthood in the US, that IMHO accounts for the difference in conduct that you observe. My Orthodox priest friends, all of whom are married, express some envy (not the sinful kind!) at the time we Romans have to pray. Of course, our parishes are many times larger than theirs, so the time differential isn’t so great.
    I would also say hands down that their spiritual formation in seminary is superior to ours. In a RC seminary there is poor quality control in spiritual formation: one might receive something wonderful or something atrocious– and most often both. The Orthodox (and Eastern Catholics) zero in on monastic and Patristic spiritual sources like a laser beam.

  62. Who made all of you with your negative comments toward Bishop Zavala, GOD. He who is without sin let him cast the first stone. None of you have the right to judge him, the mother of his kids or the children. Can you really call yourselves Catholic?

  63. Who made you GOD?


  1. [...] that I’ve never heard of Bishop Zavala is meaningless. He’s never heard of me either. Deacon Greg Kandra remembers him fondly. Rocco Palmo, naturally, has all the skinny.I lament that he lived a lie for so long. I am saddened [...]

  2. [...] was MarinoJan 4th, 2012 by Deacon Greg KandraTalking with a deacon friend this afternoon about the Zavala bombshell in Los Angeles, he reminded me of the case of Atlanta Archbishop Eugene Marino, who found himself [...]

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