A Bishop Has Children Out of Wedlock…Updated!


So you wanted to just be a simple Catholic man. One who tries to walk the Way, as difficult as it is, and mind your own business. Mind the planks in your own eye, and ignore the mote in the eyes of others. But you like to keep up on spiritual stuff, and you appreciate the encouragement you get from others making the same solitary slog to heaven as you are.

You find many interesting posts over on New Advent, for example, that help you along in this matter. And sometimes (quarterly, it seems), splashing across the marquee, there is something weird and scandalous, like this headline:

California Churchquake: San Diego gets new Coadjutor; L.A. Auxiliary Bishop resigns after revealing he secretly fathered children.

I’ll give you the link later, because I do want you to go read the juicy latest news of another casualty in the War on Sin. It’s a solemn, somber, and sobering wake-up call to remember the soaring body count of fallen priests that has mounted in this conflict that has raged since Our Lord ascended into Heaven.

Here’s the link from the CNS News Blog. The fact 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 that his children lived with an absentee dad for so long. I am thankful that he came clean, and resigned. I pray for him, and for the family involved. I can forgive all of that, as today’s readings from St. John’s letters remind us.

But here’s what his superior, Archbishop Gomez, said that Joe Six-Pack just does not understand,

“The archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs.

Whaat? Ok, spiritual care? Check. But college costs too? Funded unwittingly by the parishioners of Archdiocese of Los Angeles? That just seems unjustified, and very golden parachute-like, to me.

I mean, did Bishop Zavala die, or something? He’s not too old (60!) to go to truck-driving school, or become a teacher, is he? The woman involved hasn’t been widowed, or the children orphaned…right? Get married, go to work, and provide for your children, sir. That’s what Dad’s and husbands do.

Why Archbishop Zavala wants to also provide college tuition support is beyond me. Then again, maybe it’s because groups like Children of Catholic Priests are threatening legal action? Joe Six-Pack understands render unto Caesar, and rendering unto God. He understands voluntary charity too. But when Joe renders unto God, he reckoned he wouldn’t be footing the college bills of the children of former Catholic priests. Just goes to show how naive I am.

Never mind then. Instead of turning this little news item into a full-blown “crisis of faith” train wreck, I think I’ll just go back to work so I can try to fund my own children’s looming future college costs, and the current costs for food, clothing, and shelter too. Sheesh.

UPDATE: Father Joseph Jenkins proctors a Discussion About Priestly Service, Scandal, & the Church.

  • Jen

    I see your point but I also understand the decision. I do not think it is an absolutely necessary action but it isn’t an immoral or wrong action either.

    The ex Bishop was more than just a priest …he was a bishop …this was a blatant abuse of someone in a position over someone in their care. When someone acting on behalf of an institution does harm to those who are to be served by that institution – it right right to make restitution to the victim. Even if one argues that the woman was consenting – it was still an abuse of power . Even if the mother was consenting the children are victims and college education is a relatively inexpensive and reasonable restitution.

    So far as him getting a job – it is extraordinarily difficult in this tight job market for an older man to compete in the job market – add to that the fact that the older man has little in the way of marketable skills or experience ? Even if he does get a job in the real world – he will most likely not be able to save enough in the few years before these teens go to college.

    All that aside – what I would like to focus on something else – our Father is a prodigal father. In the story of the prodigal son – it was not only the son who was prodigal but also the Father.

    Prodigal = spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.

    The Father in that story gave his son his inheritance before it was due …that was prodigal.

    He ordered the servants to deck his son in “the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” ..he “slaughtered the fattened calf ” these were prodigal actions. To his other son – even when he was angry he was prodigal – we know this from his reminder to his older son “everything I have is yours!”

    Let’s not be like the older son saying “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.”

    Once we tithe to the church it is no longer ours – it is the Fathers to use as prodigally as he wishes to. We know his will for that money based on the decision of those he put in charge. The current Bishop decided it was a good decision to use the diocese funds to be prodigal to these children ( who as far as I can tell did no wrong themselves in this matter but have been injured gravely spiritually, emotionally, and financially )

    Listen to our good and prodigal Father as He tells us ..”My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”

    Be glad the former Bishop repented ( I assume he repented because he confessed his actions and has taken the reprecussions ) … be be glad a lost sheep has been found … be glad that we as a community show generosity to widow and orphans ( which while they have living parents these children may well be spiritual orphans! )

    Rather than focus on the prodigal spending of money lets focus on the prodigal use of GODS resources – the main resource of God is LOVE …lets be oprodigal with our Love.

  • Frank Weathers

    That’s a blog post length comment Jen, but here are my quick thoughts: Perhaps he should have left the priesthood honorably when the pregnancy of the first child was evident. By the second childs birth? Certainly. His duty to the woman and the children was clear. But that isn’t what happened.

    • Jen

      But we aren’t talking about what he should or shouldn’t do or have done. first we are talking about what the current diocese should do … he was active as an authority for the institution and the children ( and arguably the mother ) are victims of his abuse of power. Institutions can and should make restitution when someone they give authority abuses those they have authority over. This isn’t just a moral issue – it is a legal issue – and the diocese is getting off easy if all they have to do is pay two tuition.

      Second – and for us – spiritually – the more important issue – we are talking about how we should react .. I suggest we should react prodigally – both financially and prodigally in LOVE – as the Father has reassured us he does.

      • Frank Weathers

        Not my call, anyway. St. John, in his second letter, didn’t believe in your method though.

        Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in your house or even greet him; for whoever greets him shares in his evil works.

        Not a proof text, but just showing how the disciple that Jesus loved puts things.

  • http://deusnobiscum.com Norm

    College really isn’t an inexpensive cost as a restitution. But that is beside the point. The diocese isn’t responsible for making the restitution for this man’s sin. The man himself should be making restitution. We don’t see the Church shelling out college tuition for every single child of a Catholic father who is abandoned their children, and I don’t think this is something she should be doing now.

  • http://www.hermitofbardstown.com Stephen Taylor

    To me, Frank, it says we really must rethink the celibacy issue. It is creating problems, always has, and will for a long time to come. We expect too much from priests. Celibacy is a gift of grace, not a decision.

    • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

      can I say ARGH- marriage retroactively for men who promised to be celibate? For a BISHOP? You are correct that “celibacy is a gift of grace”- not is why being able to joyfully live a celibate life should be one of the HUGE points of discernment for a man wondering about the (especially Roman-rite) priesthood.

      • Frank Weathers

        If I can “sheesh,” you can say “arrgh.” I have spoken.

  • Jen

    Frank – I sorry but I don’t see how John 2 9-10 has any bearing on this. You are still focusing on the man and yes that verse applies to him …but the tuition is not being given to him – it is being given to his victims. Victims who were created because the church ordained , promoted and kept in office a man who did not understand the gift of the priesthood or the teaching of the church. If the church not only kept him in active ministry they put him in increasing position of authority.

    We are discussing the reparation made to victims – this tuition is not being given to the fallen priest – it is being giving to his children – who were victims…not raised by him nor living with him now. He is not the beneficiary. They are victims – made victims by someone in authority within this institution. You act as if we are discussing giving the man himself a college fund …we aren’t we are discussing giving his victims a college fund – so they can get a decent footing in a life – a footing which until now the institution in question played an active role in depriving them of.

    But since you bring up this quote about men who “comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in your house or even greet him”.. may I point out that you yourself stated he should marry the woman …

    “Get married, go to work, and provide for your children, sir. That’s what Dad’s and husbands do.”

    really? …everything I have read states he is a priest who resigned …I have not read where he has been laicized …so are you honestly suggesting a priest can marry?

    Of course I know that is not what you mean at all .. since from everything I know about you – you are a honest faithful Catholic man – but when we start plucking the splinter out of our brothers eye we should be careful what we say – it is easy to fall into false doctrine.

    • Frank Weathers

      I agree the children are innocent victims. Turn the whole treasury over to them, if that will help.

      As for my writing “get married, etc.”, yes my naïveté gets the best of me again, in that I jump to the conclusion that he would ask (or be forced) to be laicized, and then do the honorable, chivalrous thing for his family. But neither of the two parties may even want such a result, for all we know. For all we know, Archbishop Mahoney was aware of this, too. For all we know, it stayed suppressed until the women ran into tough financial times(?) and sought help from the Archdiocese? Lots of fiction could be written around the whole episode.

      Again, and I don’t mean to focus on “the man,” but he was a shepherd of the flock that, as you suppose, “did not understand the gift of the priesthood or the teaching of the church.” We’ll never know this either, but if that is true, then he was befuddled for a very long time. But all who came to him for counseling, spiritual direction, etc., assumed he was aware of both the gift and the teachings. They trusted him, and they too have been treated unjustly.

      The whole episode saddens me deeply. Praying,praying, praying.

      Here’s how my Abba handled an alleged pregnancy he was “responsible” for. Deacon Greg has a follow up post that may point to a possible path for Bishop Zavala to take as a priest.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

    I agree- one reason why being married with children usually ‘works’ with the Eastern rites is that we are so small- the stipend that our missions give my husband wouldn’t support him, let alone a wife and four children. So he is ‘forced’ to work as a certified hospital chaplain with bi-ritual faculties. He likes it this way because the people at church aren’t under financial pressure to support him. So if our children get financial help with college, it will not be from our diocese.

    of course, this issue with the bishop is much more complicated because he broke vows of celibacy, unmarried sex, etc, etc- I suspect the archdiocese is paying for college to head off yet another law suit. Because, yes- he could get a normal job to support the offspring

  • jasper

    “I mean, did Bishop Zavala die, or something? He’s not too old (60!) to go to truck-driving school, or become a teacher, is he? The woman involved hasn’t been widowed, or the children orphaned…right? Get married, go to work, and provide for your children, sir. That’s what Dad’s and husbands do.”

    amen Frank.

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com/ Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    Frank, I would have to disagree. The sins of the father should not be pressed upon the children. It is the right thing to do, in my opinion, without hesitation.

    I would have to say to one and all, the celibacy issue is not so simple as it seems. I can heartily recommend Msgr. Stephen Rossetti’s recent book Why Priests Are Happy. As I do not have the time or inclination to leave a longer comment on this particular topic, just have a look at that.

    As someone who works for the church, I see a lot of priests, know a lot of priests. I have always had priest friends, even before my career change. Celibacy is not a simple issue. Should it be re-examined. Yes, I do think so. Is a change going to “fix” anything? Doubtful if you ask me.

    Anyway, prayers for all involved here. We are all human, God asks us to care for one another. I am reminded of a quote from Dorothy Day that goes something like this….”I only love God as much as the person I like the least.” That may not be exact, but it is the essence of what she said. It is the hardest thing and in my experience, very true. So thus far, my love for God is challenged all the time and probably will always be.

    • Frank Weathers

      I have no further rebuttal except to say that the sins of the father are not the sins of the Church, or of the children. But they are definitely the sins of the man.

      Forget who the man is, and who provided his livelihood, for a moment. Then consider the fact no one is being punished for the “sins” of this man, anymore than you or I, and our children, are being punished for ours in this world, right here and right now.

      Such reasoning flies in the face of Church teaching, and calls to my mind Our Lord’s teaching in the passage from Luke Chapter 13 regarding the good folks killed when a wall collapsed.

      • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

        Frank, I pray daily – and often fail – with the gift of charity. It is starting to fail me now. All are forgiven in Christ. It is that simple.

        I am willing, albeit more reluctantly some days over others, to continue to examine and re-examine what I believe and why, to always be in accord with the church. Add to that that I will continue to pray for all involved here, but how anyone is being punished by the Archdiocese’s actions is beyond me at this moment.

        As for the Scriptural reference, I am not sure how that squares with what you are saying…

        By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent,b you will all perish as they did! 4Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them*—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? 5By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

        I do not mean to be dense, but… Please explain if you would be so kind.

        • Frank Weathers

          The passage disavows the notion that those who were killed, were chosen because of their sins. I too pray for all involved, for as St. John teaches,

          If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.

          All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly. We know that no one begotten by God sins; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the evil one cannot touch him.

          We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the evil one. We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

          Children, be on your guard against idols.


          • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

            Thank you for the clarification.

  • http://www.patrickomalley.com Patrick OMalley

    and why wouldn’t someone investigate how he got money to raise a wife and two children for over 10 years.

    This is just another Catholic church cover up. People should stop donating until churches give a full, detailed accounting of where all the money is going.