The former Fr. Dean McFalls just became a father in the literal sense, as the Stockton, Calif., priest announced last Sunday that he is resigning as pastor of St. Mary's Church in order to welcome a baby boy into his life.
The popular priest's departure has been met with disappointment from his congregation, some of whom believe "it's time for the Catholic church to reevaluate its long-held tradition requiring priests to be celibate and unmarried." Parishioner Natalie Lerma, who has known McFalls for two decades, thinks that his resignation is a huge loss, commenting, "I don’t think babies are wrong and I don’t think loving people is wrong, so maybe I think it’s time we look at things differently."
McFalls discussed the Church's rules against marriage in an interview with News10, saying, "If the situation in the Catholic Church were different, I would be a better man. More stable, more effective in the long run as a human being." CBS Sacramento reported that McFalls commented, "Maybe there will be a time again where priests can marry as they did for the first 1,000 years in the life of the church, but I really don’t want to argue that as a justification for what’s happened to me."
Archbishop Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, noted earlier this month that the church needs to "reflect the democratic spirit of the times," potentially opening the issue of priestly celibacy up for discussion.
McFalls' son, Gabriel, was born on Saturday, reports FOX40. He has not identified the mother of his child.
McFalls announced his departure to his congregation by reading a statement during mass, apologizing for his actions and openly stating the reason. Read the full statement here:
Dear Friends, I wish to express my profound sorrow that, beginning today, I will no longer be serving as your pastor. I have been blessed by your support and participation during the past five years. However, I have been granted a leave of absence from active ministry in the priesthood, and thus have also resigned as pastor of St. Mary's. I would have remained longer, at least until our parish festival concludes, but circumstances did not allow this to be. A child will soon be born, and I am the baby's father. I know this comes as a shock to you, and to many a disappointment. I assume full responsibility for my actions and will do all that I can so that my child receives the care and love that he deserves. Once he was conceived, I had no other option, as a Christian and a priest, than to do everything possible that he might have life, and have it to the full. As St. Paul told the Romans: "God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his decree," and though the Lord never decreed that I sin, he does command that all life be respected and nurtured.
I apologize sincerely to each and every one of you for any grief, hurt, or sense of abandonment that you may experience. Please welcome the priest who has come to take my place with generous hearts. Know that I will miss you deeply, and that you will always be carried in my heart.