Bishop Zavala resigns after disclosing he is father of two children

Bishop Gabino Zavala (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

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VATICAN CITY — Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala has resigned after disclosing to superiors that he was the father of two children.

The Vatican announced the bishop’s resignation today in a one-line statement that cited church law on resignation for illness or other serious reasons.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced the “sad and difficult” news in a letter to Catholics in the archdiocese. He said Bishop Zavala, who was auxiliary bishop for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, had informed him in early December that he was the father of two minor teenage children who live with their mother in another state.

Bishop Zavala told Archbishop Gomez that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. Since that time, Bishop Zavala has not been in ministry and “will be living privately,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“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,” Archbishop Gomez said. He asked prayers for all those affected by the situation.

Here is the text of Archbishop Gomez’ letter:

January 4, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

I have some sad and difficult information to share with you. Bishop Gabino Zavala, auxiliary bishop for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, informed me in early December that he is the father of two minor teenage children, who live with their mother in another state.

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.

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.

Let us pray for all those impacted by this situation and for each other as we reflect on this letter.

May the Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, grant you peace.

Most Reverend José H. Gomez

Archbishop of Los Angeles

46 Responses

  1. Why would the Archdiocese feel under any obligation to fund two college educations? Will not Zavala recieve a pension? I cannot understand why the Archdiocese will fund part of Zavala’s financial responsibility twice. Anyone?

  2. Good for Bishop Zavala! I hope he enjoys his family and no longer has to hide his normalcy. I’m always happy to hear a priest has a girlfriend- happy that he has a real life and happy that the alter boys around him are safe.

  3. He should live privately AND get a job to help support his children. Reparation should include humility and sacrifice, no?

  4. Just another instance of corrupt church administrators using OTHER peoples’ hard-earned money to fund their own pampered, comfortable lifestyles. These corrupt leaders are nothing but “whited sepulchres,” as Jesus would say.

  5. Kind of interesting the way they’ll pull out the stops to support a man who’s betrayed trust, but often as not attempt to destroy those who do horrible things like offer the Tridentine Mass and teach the Catholic Faith.

  6. Pretty shocking. I’ve met him several times, and he was always very kind and humorous. Glad it wasn’t a case of molestation… hope the mother wasn’t a teenager at the time of the conception.

  7. Too much man-centered “Theology of the Body”? And why should the chump pew sitters be saddled with the costs of educating Zavalla’s trysts? Let him man up and do what any other real man would do when involved in such indiscretions.

    It may not be a molestation but it certainly molests the wallets and scandalizes the faithful.

  8. On the way to equality, optional celibacy and working around the non-marriage of clergy issue. It leads one to think how many more priests are out there with back stories of this sort? It just goes to prove that love cannot be stopped by a reversal of the rules of nature–because they are the rules of God. Christ reversed ideas with the Pharisees, but this is another reversal of the 1,000 year old Gregorian reform that put into place the manadatory celibacy rule that Christ knew nothing about.
    We should be celebrating this union of male and female, not feeling sad about it–that’s the Christ-like reversal in all its glory. Just think of the silence that this woman in all her strength had to endure for so long. And this on the eve of the Solemnity of Mary that we all just celebrated. Bless this union and bless the children and pray they grow up to be healthy, whole individuals from this point on!!

  9. My heart goes out to this very good man. I know him to be exceedingly generous in his ministry, compassionate, human, humorous, and in so many ways an authentic witness to Christian and Catholic values. The Church is so backward in its retention of its medieval celibacy rules. How can a young seminarian in his mid-twenties make a vow that binds him to such an unnatural life? What it binds him to is a life of painful secrets, cover-ups, and hoping he will not be found out by the faithful and his superiors. I wish you well, Gabino. I am sure you will do many more good things for the Church we all love in spite of its regressive and repressive attitudes and policies.

    Bob Doud, Glendale

  10. Not surprising…I cant imagine why so many people are justifying him and attacking clerical celebacy? So many poorly educated Catholics… Wouldnt know heresey if it slapped them in the face! The Priesthood is not natural people…it is super-natural. Educate yourself folks! Because Bishops like these have supported the dumbing down of the faith for 50 years!

  11. Why did he tell the Archbishop now?

  12. Very sad. The Catholic Church in California continues to crumble!

  13. I am saddened, but not crushed, by the outcome. I have known Bishop Zavala since 1989, as a professor of canon law, priest, and bishop. He is not perfect, but he is a very decent man of God and compassionate church official to many, including the Chinese Catholic communities in the San Gabriel Pastoral Region and beyond. May the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe grant her son Gabino peace and solace.

    Matthew Ting, Manhattan Beach

  14. sad

  15. Those who cannot fulfill their vows of celibacy, which the Church has rightly kept in place, should really not join the priesthood. Same thing with those having homosexual tendencies (notice most of the kids being molested are little boys). Seminaries need to start being way more strict in the discernment process.

  16. Where has this man’s conscience been these recent years??

  17. It is sad but the Bishop is human like others. The human failure does not
    make him useless. Let us look for the good in him. He who has never
    sinned cast the first stone. The difference between him and me may be that I have never been caught. Let us be less judgemental and get moving. Celibacy is not the problem. The society which no longer has a sense of shame and sin is the problem. Remain assured of our prayers.
    Mother Mary protect and intercede for him.

  18. Amen!!!
    Anthony Mateega & Matthew Ting..I agree with you also Jason Vien and vekron99!
    Kevin….look up La Salette apparitions….in truth bishops falling from grace in this way is nothing new..why do you think the name Bishopson is so common?

  19. It used to be that the Catholic clergy were held to a “higher standard”, the problem today is finding what the standard is!

    Funny, not a single post about praying for his “soul” to be saved. Glad the Church is supporting the kids financially.

    I pray he returns to God’s love and mercy by doing what is necessary to live the balance of his life within the “State of Grace”.

    Pray for me too, Jesus knows I need it.

  20. I apologize for my generalization in my previous post, some people above clearly are praying for him. God Bless.

  21. There is a deeper theological dialectic happening here and in the next days and weeks, I would hope that we all reflect positively and as many have said have a great compassion for a good man who is human. In addition, he can now be a better father to his children and a better partner to the woman.
    The deeper question arises as to why two sacraments, holy and vital to our Church are at polar opposites? Why does one cancel out the other? If both were available at the same time, would not the union of the two make for a stronger and even more resilient Church and faith community? These questions are before all of us to seriously discern in the coming months.
    Why does the sacrament of matrimony cancel out the sacrament of holy orders and why does the sacrament of holy orders cancel out the sacrament of matrimony? Both are sacrosanct callings of the highest grace–one can create life in union and the other can give ongoing life in union with the divine (Imago and Anima Dei), both are divine and human at the same time and should not cancel each other out!

  22. Archaic rule of Celibacy. Goes against what God had intended for man. It should be done away, and if one chooses, then that is fine but not impose this evil practice on all who want to serve God. This has caused a lot of sexual perversion in the curch. The church and the seminaries are a haven for sexually perverted individuals. They need to get rid of this ignorant practice. I know him. Too bad, a REAL man of God has to leave while other perverted child molestors are left behind(because they have not been cought).

  23. The Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders are both rendered to “permanent” deacons and those formerly Anglican (Episcopalian) priests.

    Bishop Zavala is not alone among the U.S. bishopric of Hispanic heritage. Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, resigned in 1993 after confessing relationships with women.

    In Mexico and the rest of Latin America, the machismo culture has greatly tolerated the fact that an estimated one-third Catholic clergy having wives and children.

    http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/religion/mexico-celibacy.htm

  24. Janice Poss has it right.

  25. The Bishop chose to become involved with a woman and Father two children – we all know that is wrong. Be that as it may, the worse part of this is the hypocrisy; simply said, he needed to leave the priesthood way before he had a 2nd child! How can he sit there and hear confessions with this hidden secret on his shoulders? As a proud Catholic I resent telling my sins and asking for forgiveness to a priest who is living in sin while hearing my confession. I feel violated!

    As we know, the church, and the ordained has so many issues with sexuality. While celibacy is part of the sacrament of Holy Orders it sadly has become obsolete in today’s society. The Vatican makes all these other changes to the mass, to the faithful but turns it’s back on making some change to celibacy besides appointing Deacons. In my opinion, we faithful need to “make noise” to Rome and get something done about this antiquated law. I am so tired of hearing people bad-mouth the church because of the public sins of these priests. And Rome wonders what to do with all the fallen Catholics! The Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, etc. believe in celibacy since they hopefully followed this in their priesthood so, it is going to be very hard to convince them this has to stop or there will be no more followers; but to save the Roman Catholic Faith, we have to start pushing for change.

  26. When you go to confession or ‘reconciliation’ as they call it today, you’re fulfilling a sacrament as instituted by Jesus. Sacraments are visible ‘signs’ of His divine life and mercy left for us to be able to see and feel (The Lord understands that we’re generally hard of heart so he instituted these visible signs). A specific divine/invisible action occurs with every sacrament. The consequence of the Sacrament of Confession is that you receive Grace from the God, you officially reconcile with Him AND you promise to do better because you have repented !!. You don’t have to be really concerned by the private life of the priest hearing your confession, as long as he is an ordained priest at that moment. The priest is just an instrument, authorized to hear confession and administer absolution as long as the conditions are met. If you go confession thinking about what priest is going to hear your confession you’ll always have problems with it. You’re faith is not be put on the instrument, but way beyond. Sometimes there those who are very good instruments for the Lord, others the instruments are not so good; the Lord can make use of anything and many a time He also makes good things from bad instruments.

  27. Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church, when you marry, provided that the necessary conditions for marriage were met, the marriage is for life an you promise to love and be faithful to your wife in good times and in bad times, for rich or for poor, etc. With this sacrament, what is bound on earth, becomes bound in Heaven. That is the divine consequence of this Sacrament. It is a covenant, not a social/legal contract, even if you on earth leave your wife/husband, you’re still married under the sacrament.

    Well, it just happens that the Priest Order, the Sacrament by which a priest or a nun become committed to the Church for life works exactly the same as marriage. They MARRY the Church. The Church is, under Christian Catholic theology and some other christian denominations, the Body of Christ on earth. This is how, in a rather minimalistic way of explaining it, the Sacrament of Priest Orderhood works.

    So, allowing Priests to marry is tantamount to polygamy. As you may see, it is not a simple problem. When a priest needs to “leave” priesthood because they did something out of canon law, they simply stop practicing priesthood, but they’re still Married to the Church by that Sacrament, it is a very hard way of living after that. It is like you leave your wife and move in with the neighbor’s wife. You will have the reminder of your actions next door to you for the rest of your life. May God have mercy on these people.

    So, under these premises, I don’t think it is going to be that simple that the Church can allow priests to marry. I don’t think it will happen, it has not happened in 2000 years, and there have been a lot of infidelities in the past. This is not a first.

  28. I am very disheartened.

    Celibacy continues to be debated and won’t change by what I think. Sex is a normal human function. How about the fact that this bishop, entrusted with a position of authority and oversight, decided after becoming a bishop to also become a father, twice. It doesn’t appear that his children had the benefit of the complete practicing Catholic family we are taught to strive for. Maybe it can be now. Why bother to teach what you can’t live? Is the status of being elevated in the hierarchy so great that parenthood would come second? Hard for me to understand.

    Archbishop Gomez has decided to assist the children with college costs because Zavala is a man of modest means. How sad in so many ways for the rest of the flock, those who are expected to continue with donations and those who are in true need.

    Instead of leaving the Church, as so many do, I need to remember that my beliefs are not based on men, especially not pedophile enabling Cardinal Archbishops or others who play their flocks for fools. I believe in God’s forgiveness, being human, it is still hard for me to swallow some actions of those who forget that they decided to be “servants of the servants of God”.

  29. More fruits of Vac II.

  30. I would bet that, the way the Church is being run by the progressivists in the Vatican these days, this man will be invited back to serve as lay leader in a community parish and give talks on morality, responsibility and loyalty.

  31. Why is Bishop Zavala in “full communion” with the Church but the SSPX is not?

  32. Dan, Bp. Zavala might have committed personal sin, but this does not break communion with the Church.

    SSPX is NOT in regular communion with the church.

    In any case, there is a saying from the Desert Fathers that applies here:

    You say you have seen his open sin–but have you seen his hidden repentance?

  33. Joanne, you are so right, another right reason comes thru, his obligation NOT the Church’s.

  34. This woman must have known the father of her children was a priest. If she didn’t know when she had the first she MUST have known when she had the second. It should have been clear to het that the man with whom she was consorting was a cheat and a liar and not to be relied on to help support their children. Since she had his children anyway, she is not entitled to a penny piece from the diocese. If I lived in that area, I would not give another cent to the Church. We are obliged to supprt our pastors, but not their illegitimate offspring.

  35. I think Jo Ma has said all that needs to be said. The rules are the rules and if you dont agree with them then go and join the protestants because it was throughthe same sin that hthis church came into beig. Learn about Luther and henry viii and see where giving into their anomalistic feeling got them!

    Marriage is sacred and so is the vow of celibacy in Holy Orders.
    I will pray for this poor priest as I do for all of the. The Church is letting them down since Vat2 because it has been liberised and our Pope’s have lost their role as Haed of the church so lost their authourity to lead. The sheep are scattered and dont know how to behave.

  36. Pasisozi,
    have you ever been to mass with the SSPX?
    It might be an eyeopener for you as they sure are the true Catholic Church and they are in Communion with the Church which is more than can be said of most if not all of these child molesting bishops and priests who fraternise with women,and protestant ministers acting like priests as they dont know their faith so have nothing to teach their dwindling congrgations.

  37. Jo Ma -

    re: “So, under these premises, I don’t think it is going to be that simple that the Church can allow priests to marry. I don’t think it will happen, it has not happened in 2000 years,…” and “So, allowing Priests to marry is tantamount to polygamy.”

    Actually, the Eastern rites (e.g., Maronite, Byzantine) that are loyal to Rome have had married clergy all along without any general disaster. Bishops in those rites are almost always (but not always) single, true. But most of the parish work is done by married Catholic priests.

  38. I have no objection with the man enjoying his life and his family or his church. I am bothered by why is the Catholic Church feels obligated to cover this man’s financial obligation twice – pay him his pension (which I assume he has earned) and pay for his two kids’ college educations? Where does the Church, or the Bishop, or whoever get the right to presume to know how best to dispense with the donations given to it/him/them by very hard working and at times also needy people? Zavala is no doubt a man trying to be earnest and honest to the best of his abilities. Fine – we all are. But why must we all pay him twice? Anybody?

  39. Has anyone thought about the woman who knew she was not married to him and conceived two children anyhow? A woman is many times the core of a man’s downfall – look at Eve!
    Why now then should anyone support HER? Many mothers work, and single mothers too. She can work and support her own children, why should the lay people’s money go for that? The Bishop also can work as a wage earner if he has stepped down as a priest.
    Remember when you go to confession the priest is a sinner and many have done other things that aren’t sexual. He should not be however, in the state of mortal sin and probably this Bishop did confess his problem-but that is in secrecy between the sinner and the confessor. Celebicy is not the problem and those who condemn it are not giving credit to the many, many who can handle this lifestyle in honor-for the Lord.
    There is a book “GoodBye Good Men” that everyone should read. The communists were infiltrated into our church and “wiggled” their way into the semaries in the 30′-40′s. These men were not taught Dogma but had Orgies instead. Inspection was scheduled to give them time to bring out the books. Educate yourselves and use your head to think -that’s what it’s for – before you show your ignorance in blogging!

  40. Yet one more reason to make sure we as Catholics are focused on Christ not catholic personalities and what they have achieved.

  41. Women cannot be at the core of man’s downfall, the man is responsible for his own actions. To transfer personal responsibility to another, while timeless, is a cop out. Both the mother and the ex-bishop should be responsible for their actions and the maintenance and education of their mutual offspring – like the rest of us. More and more I think of the Church as nothing more than a club of sclerotic old men whose main purpose is mutual protection, of themselves, not their “flock”.

  42. I have always liked Bishop Zavala. One time I told him that he looked like the old time gangster actor Edward G Robinson. He chuckled.

    Why are we burdened with educating his progeny? If he fathered children in another country, say his own country for example, would that country take much needed church money away from the dying poor parishes and give it to his children? I think you know the answer to that.

    My own parish is struggling financially. We had to close the school. The buildings all need lots of fixing. Two of them need a roof. We don’t have the money and I don’t see the archdiocese is forthcoming with any assistance. So how does Archbishop Gomez figure there is money for his children when there is no money for our parish church? Parishes and retired diocesan religious are struggling for survival yet there is magic money for some priests kids ~ doesn’t add up.

    Parishes in the Los Angeles Archdiocese are required to have a finance council of some sort to assist the head of the parish in financial matters. I know they are only in an advisory capacity and that the pastor/administrator has the final say so. Did Archbishop Gomez run this decision through any of his councils? If he did, I wonder what their advice was. The Archdiocese has already paid out tens of millions of dollars, albeit by court order, to victims of molestation. In those instances our hand was forced. But this decision to help educate his children is a choice to spend money that didn’t have to be spent.

    I sincerely hope our archbishop thinks twice before doing anything like this again as I will have to think twice about continuing my financial support.

  43. I have no problem with him having children and a family, I’m bothered with the fact that the church will now support his family? If he had the courage to come clen, he should have the courage to get a JOB and support his family just like my husband and I do and many other Catholic couples who help out our church. If his choice is to live his privacy than let him be the supporter for his family so my husband wanted to be a priest for a while but he was also I love with me, he chose a family but now after reading this I can’t help but be judgemental and think that he could have had both of best worlds, not that I think he would’ve done it, he is too honest, I probably would of though

  44. MY MOTHER AND UNCLE GREW UP WITH AND WATCHED HIM BECOME A PRIEST. Let me tell you they are disgusted and ashamed of Gabayo. Especially my grandmother. Gabayo you should be ashame for making my mother be upset, especially my uncle Jose who grew up with you while in high school. Shame on you.

  45. Although I don’t condone the secrecy, this situation with Bishop Zavala only proves that good Catholic leaders may do terrific things for social justice, peace and the interests of the poor and immigrants and have a family life.

  46. Karen Davis: Your comment that leaders (Catholic, whatever) may do good and have a family is spot on. Very good comment. Thanks.

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