US Catholic Faith in Real Life

LA's Gabino Zavala, a bishop with two teenage kids, resigns

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

It's hard to come up with anything good to say when the public image of Catholic clerical celibacy has again been undermined by a cleric who has violated the expectation of chastity. We can be grateful that the relationship that produced LA auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala's two children was apparently a consensual one between adults. Yet Zavala's departure is further damage to the credibility--and by that I mean whether people believe priests are celibate--of compulsory celibacy.

Then again, sometimes I imagine what our church might be like if at least some of our pastors were also fathers with children, married to their partners rather than carrying on secretly. Zavala was well-loved and highly thought of as a kind, pastoral, and competent priest and bishop. Might other men with children (and also married), men who both publicly care for their families and their flocks, also be gracious and pastoral ordained leaders in the church? I can say that I do find the preaching and ministry of married deacons to differ in some ways from their celibate priestly counterparts, a difference I chalk up to their experience as men who must be responsible to a family at home as well as to the church family.

Though I am sad for Zavala, and especially for his children who have likely been deprived of the fullness of his care and attention, I also look forward to and hope for the day when men in healthy public relationships with families of their own will also be able to openly serve the church--as they did many centuries ago.