January 4, 2012 / 2:27 PM / in 6 years

U.S. Catholic bishop who resigned fathered two children

VATICAN CITY, Jan 4 (Reuters) - An assistant bishop of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles in the United States has resigned because he had a secret family, including two teenage children.

The Vatican said on Wednesday that Pope Benedict had accepted the resignation of Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary bishop of the diocese which has been plagued by sexual scandals.

A brief Vatican announcement did not give the reason for Zavala’s resignation, saying only that the pope had accepted it under the norm in canon (Church law) that says a bishop who is ill or otherwise unfit to carry out his duties should resign.

But Zavala’s direct superior, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, has prepared a letter for the faithful in the archdiocese explaining the circumstances of the departure of Zavala, who was assistant bishop for the San Gabriel region of California.

In the letter, a draft of which was obtained from a Catholic Church source in Rome, Gomez said Zavala, 60, had informed him in early December that he was the father of two teenage children who live with their mother in another state.

The Catholic Church demands celibacy from its priests.

“Bishop Zavala also told me that he submitted his resignation to the Holy Father in Rome, which was accepted. Since that time, he has not been in ministry and will be living privately,” Gomez says in the letter.

“The Archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. The family’s identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy,” the letter says.

Gomez asked for prayers “for all those impacted by this situation and for each other as we reflect on this letter”.

Zavala’s resignation under a cloud was the latest headache for the diocese, which paid a $660 million settlement in 2007 for cases of sexual abuse going as far back at the 1940.

Zavala was also the latest Catholic Church official who was found to have had a secret family.

The late leader of the Legionaries of Christ religious order, Father Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008 at the age of 87, lived a double life for decades that was not discovered until after his death.

Maciel, a Mexican, was found to have abused seminarians. He was also discovered to have had a mistress with whom he had fathered several children. (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Edited by Richard Meares)

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