The Rev. Dean McFalls said Wednesday he has asked for personal leave from the Stockton Diocese while he decides what to do about fathering a child, which is due to be born within days to an as-yet unidentified woman.
My first priority is take responsibility for a child who is being born, he said. Im going to make sure the baby is cared for.
That doesnt mean he will marry the babys mother, however, which would end all hope of remaining a Catholic priest. Hed love to remain a priest, he said, though he knows the chances of that are slim.
McFalls, who formerly served at St. Judes in Ceres and Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto, resigned from his job as pastor at St. Marys in Stockton last weekend, making the announcement in a brief letter to his parishioners.
A letter from Bishop Stephen Blaire also was read at the services. Blaire said he had granted McFalls a leave of absence from active ministry in the priesthood for personal reasons. Blaire appointed the Rev. Jose Luis Gutierrez, the diocesan director of vocations and an associate pastor at Presentation parish in Stockton, to replace McFalls at St. Marys.
McFalls clarified Wednesday that he was not asking to be removed from the priesthood at this time. Rather, he said, he intends to spend a time of discernment to see whats next for him.
As he prepared to finish reports and move out of the rectory at St. Marys this week, McFalls said he is trying to keep a low profile for the sake of the new pastor, whos a wonderful person. He also wants to do whatever he can to lessen the negative impact the publicity has had on his parish and hopes a three-year building project to repair a badly leaking roof will move forward.
Mostly, hes worried about what impact the news of his affair and impending fatherhood will have on his parishioners.
Ive had many, many phone calls, many, many text messages, many emails, he said. Some people are hurt because they looked to me to be an example to their children, their families. I understand that. But the vast majority have spoken in support. I want to make clear that Im asking for forgiveness. This was not the right role model to provide.
As for himself, McFalls who grew up as a Protestant said he has had to face some deep fundamental truths about himself and the priesthood. Ive been a Catholic for 33 years, he said. I kind of thought Id worked through that (celibacy) question. Id had a couple of meaningful relationships (before entering the priesthood), but I thought Id been called to give myself 100 percent to the Lord, in Gods service. I love my ministry. Ive always loved my ministry. I spent my life waiting and preparing for it.
Yet, he said, hes always been more of a relational person who wants to get to know people well. He said his several years as the sole priest at St. Marys led to overwork and a desire for deep friendships.
Im not a TV watcher, he said. I dont come home after a 16-hour day and sit in front of the TV. Im not a beer drinker. I like things that go deeper. I function best in the role of relationships.
Now McFalls will have to choose between the priesthood and marrying the childs mother. The Catholic Church allows married Episcopal priests to become Catholic priests and allows married men to become deacons, who help with many priestly tasks. But the church does not allow its own priests to marry.
If, for example, I marry this mother of the child, there would be no more sacramental ministry, McFalls said. If you are a priest and marry, you can no longer be a priest.
No matter what, he said, he will remain a Catholic.
I cant see myself doing anything else.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209)578-2012.