Since the beginning of the year, evasive press releases publicizing the dismissal of Congolese priests from the clerical state have drawn attention: nearly a dozen in a few months, from several of the 48 dioceses. The last one, at the end of March, with the exception of three priests from the Diocese of Tshumbe in central DR Congo, had aroused much interest. The search for information met a wall of silence.
A 19-page internal document authored by the National Bishops’ Conference of the Congo (Cenco) and dated March 4 urging parent priests to renounce their priesthood to care for their children could be a of explanations.
An official internal document
The document was considered and endorsed by the bishops at their March plenary session “In the school of Jesus Christ. For an authentic priestly life “, target “ break the silence About this painful experience. It was not published outside of the clerical milieu.
The Congolese bishops express their sadness about this “certify” as a priest not live a real priestly life “. They emphasize ” the incompatibility of the father office with the office and priestly life in the Roman Catholic system » and insist that these priests must adopt « responsible behavior towards children born to a woman and a priest “. You invite them to it to attend fully to it and to do so in order to ask dispensation from priestly duties from the Holy Father ».
In the event that the priest in question is unwilling to give up the cassock, the document urges the bishop to ” submit the case to the Holy See for the maximum penalty of dismissal from the clergy ».
Associations of priest children
The Congolese bishops recall that there are associations of children priests in many countries around the world. She ” The goal is to bring the many people who have come out of a relationship between a woman and a priest out of anonymity and to help them psychologically.”.
For her, now is the time to do justice to the women and children who are victims of these situations and are forced to live in hiding: ” They ask for recognition and support “. In Congolese society, these children are considered as “ as fruits of sin ».
→ THE FACTS. Pope Francis will visit DR Congo and South Sudan from July 2-7
« Admonition and persuasion are no longer enough, these attitudes make it difficult to atone for the guilty and sow confusion and scandals among the faithful.”, he insists. Therefore ” The laboring priest needs both mercy and correction from the Church. »
celibacy and chastity
The Congolese bishops also praise the virtues of celibacy and believe that ” many priests » faithfully living out their priestly obligations and that their testimony builds up the people of God.
However, they point out that celibacy is tested by several factors, including “ the instinctive inclination or impulse to be educated; the sexual freedom movement that is going global and not leaving the church intact ” but also “ the cultural constraints in certain environments that know no sexual prohibitions and require sanitary facilities ” and ” material poverty or misery that does not favor the exercise of virtues ».
A connection with the Pope’s trip?
This document was sent to Congolese priests on March 4, the day after the official announcement of Pope Francis’ trip to DR Congo from July 2-5. Should we see a link? One thing is certain: since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has made the fight against abuses of all kinds in the Church one of his greatest struggles.
As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had already commented on this question in a book of interviews with Rabbi Abraham Skorka Heaven and Earth. « When a priest comes to me and tells me that he has made a woman pregnant, I gradually make him understand that natural law takes precedence over his rights as a priest, he explained there. Consequently, even if he decides not to marry the woman, he must leave the service and take care of the child. Because if the child has the right to have a mother, the child also has the right to have a father with a face.”.