The confirmation came from Alessandro Gisotti, a spokesperson for the Vatican, who told the New York Times in an article published Monday that "these guidelines exist" and that "it is an internal document."
The secretive document, according to Gisotti, is the result of years' worth of fine-tuning procedures, which ultimately holds the "protection of the child" as a "fundamental principle." He also indicated that the guidelines "request" for the priest to leave the ministry and "assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child."
But while the guidelines say the church will ask a priest who fathers a child to leave the ministry, it seems that such priests don't actually have much of a choice in the matter.
Monsignor Andrea Ripa, an undersecretary in the Congregation for the Clergy — a department of the Roman Catholic Church — told the publication that while "it is impossible to impose" the removal, and that it "can only be asked" for by the priest, the church will step in if the priest fails to ask to be relieved of his priestly duties.
"If you don't ask, you will be dismissed," he said.
The confirmation came as a result of Times reporters speaking with Vincent Doyle, an Irish man who told the publication that he'd first seen the document in October 2017 after he discovered that his biological father was a Roman Catholic priest.
Doyle was shown the guidelines by Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Vatican's envoy to the United Nations in Geneva. "You're actually called ‘children of the ordained,'" Doyle recalled Jurkovic saying. "I was shocked they had a term for it."
Doyle's request for a copy of the document was denied.
A tally of the number of priests who have fathered children is unknown. After discovering that his father was a priest, Doyle launched Coping International, a global support group to help other children of priests. It presently has some 50,000 users across 175 countries.
In his 2010 book, "On Heaven and Earth," Pope Francis wrote that priests who break their vows should not stay with the ministry.
Many of the children are reportedly the result of affairs involving priests and nuns or women outside of the church, while others are the product of sexual assault. In May 2014, a group of 25 Italian woman came forward and wrote a letter to Pope Francis, requesting that the celibacy ban be lifted from priests so they could engage in open relationships. The bid has fallen on deaf ears.
The first official confirmation from the Vatican comes on the heels of recent remarks made by Pope Francis in which he touched on reports of sexual abuse of nuns by priests.
"It's true," Francis said, speaking to the topic on the papal plane. "There are priests and bishops who have done that."
The latest development also comes on the same day that the Washington Post issued a report alleging that the highest ranks of the Vatican, including Pope Francis, knew about abuses taking place at three Catholic schools for deaf children.