Reaction was varied Wednesday to news that the Rev. Dean McFalls has fathered a child to be born soon.
Posts on The Modesto Bee’s Facebook page ranged from non-Catholics who said priests should be allowed to marry and have families to those who knew McFalls from his work in Modesto and Ceres. Most were supportive of the Stockton Diocese priest.
Christy Munguia wrote: “I personally knew him when he was a priest here in Modesto. Maybe what he did was wrong according to the church, but I am happy for him. He will be an incredible father.”
Christine Crom McGuire said, “I know and love Father Dean. This has not changed. I cannot imagine the struggle he is going through. He is in my prayers. Only those without sin should cast stones. I am curious to see who is without sin.”
Flavia Sandoval said, “Father Dean is an amazing human being who has helped guide and change the lives of many, including myself. I will forever be grateful for that. Best wishes to him.”
Some were critical of the church’s rules for celibacy among priests.
“I am not Catholic, but I really think that if the Catholic church would just let their priests marry, then a lot of this wouldn’t be such a big deal!” said D’Arcy Mellish Ellisen. “The molesting of children, no matter the religion, is a big deal, but this ... not so much! If he had been able to marry, then this would be a non-issue and he would still be serving the church.”
Kim Arie Verhoeven Morford agreed. “He is human like everyone else. I think priests should be allowed to marry.”
Others were more critical.
“I don’t know him. But like any religion, they have their rules,” said Chantha Sun. “He chose to be a priest. He went in knowing the rules. Although I believe everyone should have their own families, he should not have become a priest.”
Kevin Danger Vincent wrote, “Father McFails is more like it. Clearly, he was very popular!”
The Rev. Joseph Illo, former pastor at St. Joseph’s Parish in Modesto who is now head chaplain at Thomas Aquinas College in Southern California, described his close friend as “most adventuresome,” and said McFalls “taught me the ropes of snow camping and how to ski in the most adverse winter conditions. He would go backpacking, scuba diving, kayaking, etc., with us. As a priest, he gives his boundless energy to every conceivable project, especially to those that serve the poor.”
A group of about five to six Stockton Diocese priests, including McFalls and Illo, met frequently to share outings on their days off and often vacationed together.
“Dean has been a good friend to me and many other priests,” Illo said. “He joined our priest ‘fraternity’ or support group even before he was ordained (almost 20 years ago), and we have had many days off and vacations together. We just all spent a week in Aruba scuba diving, hiking, etc. We share a love for the outdoors, for adventure, for Mother Teresa and for simplicity of life. Lamentably, he didn’t share his struggles with chastity with us, and I am disappointed he didn’t.”
Illo said all priests face the attraction of marriage and family vs. celibacy, and that an accountability group with other priests, as well as a life of prayer, are two things that have helped him avoid that temptation.
“I am sad that he seems to have given up on the battle for chastity ... (but) I always want to be a friend to him, and will always thank God for the brotherhood we have shared over the years.”