The Portuguese Diocese of Funchal has said that a priest who fathered a child has resigned his duties as a pastor but will be able to continue his pastoral ministry.

In November 2017, Fr. Giselo Andrade, then pastor of  Our Lady of the Hill church, acknowledged his paternity of a girl born in August.

After investigating the case, the Diocese of Funchal stated that “the Church is a place of mercy and God forgives everything, but a double life is unacceptable.”

The diocese said that it is providing pastoral guidance in “the situation, respecting the delicateness of the case, the dignity of persons and the consequences it has in the parish itself and the other Christian communities.”

They also stated that “the priest himself had to discern, in dialogue with the bishop, if he intended to exercise the pastoral ministry according to the requirements and norms of the Church or instead would embrace another vocation.”

In the Jan 28 notice, the diocese said that the decision that Fr. Andrade would resign from his functions as pastor was made “after dialogue with the priest himself.”

The diocesan notice stated that the priest “will be able to continue the exercise of his pastoral ministry through some activities that were already entrusted to him in the area of communications and others that eventually may be assigned to him.”

The statement said that it was the priest himself who “expressed his desire to continue to exercise his priestly ministry under the conditions required by the Church.”

“Of course the need for clear discernment was seen, for a responsibly undertaken choice matured in reflection and prayer, a discernment made with serenity and free of pressure,” under the pastoral guidance of Bishop  António José Cavaco Carrilho of the diocese, the diocese said.

The notice also emphasized that by assuming the paternity of his daughter, Fr. Andrade demonstrated his commitment to the responsibilities inherent to this situation.

“This entire situation created an opportunity for debate and reflection in the news media and social media," on the discipline of celibacy in the Church, considering that the Church “is not static but dynamic and has a history that allows it to recognize and evaluate its values and its faults.” he said.

The Diocese of Fuchal stressed that “Catholic priests accept and commit themselves in complete freedom, to live the gift of celibacy in their ministry of service to the People of God, in fuller conformity to Christ the Shepherd, with abundant fruits for the Church, including the sacrifice of some expressions and joys of family life.”

In a May 2017, interview, discussing the shortage of priests, Pope Francis said that “optional celibacy is not the solution.”

In November 2017, when Fr. Andrade acknowledged he was the father of a girl, the President of the Portuguese Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, defended celibacy and rejected the possibility that it be abandoned or “softened.”

In a Nov 16 press conference at the end of the plenary assembly of bishops, the cardinal also commented that situations similar to Fr. Andrade's also occur with romantic affairs involving priests.

According to the  Portuguese news agency Ecclesia, the cardinal, who is also the Patriarch of Lisbon, said that in cases of romantic affairs “responsibilities have to be assumed” and that priestly or conjugal life continues when there is the “will to repent going forward and do things more conscientiously and responsibly.”

As for celibacy, the cardinal said that “the priest is a living sign of Christ by choosing to not have a family in order to be family to everyone.”

This article was originally published by ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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