Catholic group admits high-level priest fathered a child ‘a number of years ago’
An ultra-conservative Catholic group on Wednesday said one of its most senior priests who teaches doctrine at a Vatican university has a child and admitted it knew about the scandal for some time.
“The general director and his council are deeply sorry for not having acted earlier and more firmly,” the Legion of Christ group said in a statement.
Father Thomas Williams has been removed from public priestly duties for a year but the movement said he could still be a priest as long as he repents and provides adequate support to the child and the mother.
It said he could also choose to leave the priesthood and form a family.
“A number of years ago I had a relationship with a woman and fathered her child. I am deeply sorry for this grave transgression and have tried to make amends,” Williams was quoted as saying in the statement.
The movement said the woman was an adult at the time of the relationship and there was no abuse of authority as she was not one of his students.
“It is not a case of abuse or criminal action,” it said.
Thomas is a professor of moral theology and social doctrine of the Catholic Church at the Vatican’s Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
The movement’s general director, Father Luis Garza, said: “It won’t surprise me if you are disappointed, angry or feel your trust shaken once again.”
The Legion of Christ, whose Mexican founder Father Marcial Maciel was a paedophile who is alleged to have fathered three children, earlier this month said it had uncovered seven suspected cases of child abuse by its priests.
The movement expanded hugely under late pope John Paul II and is now present in 22 countries, particularly in Latin America.
It has 800 priests, 2,500 seminarians and 70,000 lay people among its members and it also manages 12 universities.
Maciel died in the United States in 2008 at the age of 87 and Pope Benedict XVI authorised a full review of the congregation in 2010.
[Priests prostate themselves during a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in April. AFP Photo/Vincenzo Pinto]