DIOCESE PUTS POPULAR PRIEST
WHO FATHERED 2 CHILDREN ON LEAVE
LAFAYETTE (AP) -- A popular Roman Catholic priest was placed on administrative leave Friday after revelations that the diocese appointed him pastor even though he fathered two children.
Within hours, the small St. Perpetua church received at least 50 calls from parishioners, plus visits and cards, all backing the Rev. John Gilmore, said Kathy Geddes, the parish business manager.
"They are very supportive of him to stay, and they will do whatever is necessary," she said. Not a single call criticized Gilmore, she said.
At least one other priest currently working in the area also violated his vow of celibacy by having a child, said Oakland diocese chancellor Sister Barbara Flannery. She declined to identify him.
The Lafayette controversy centers on Gilmore, 41, who was placed as the pastor of St. Perpetua in 1991 even though the diocese knew about his children. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the story Friday, and reactions were immediate.
"By hindsight, this decision is maybe worthy of criticism, and in view of the present scandal it has become necessary to place him on administrative leave," said Oakland Bishop John S. Cummins.
Bill Ryan, spokesman for the United States Catholic Conference in Washington, said this was the first time he had heard of such a case. Priests are encouraged to "take responsibility" for their children, and often leave the priesthood, he said.
"But I'm not aware of any national policy in this regard, or by the Vatican," said Ryan. "It's a determination that would have to be made by the local bishop."
Gilmore, who graduated from the University of San Francisco, was ordained in 1982. He had served at three parishes in Alameda County before his assignment in the Contra Costa County post in Lafayette, Cummins said.
During an assignment in Pleasanton, he became involved with a woman and had two children, now 5 and 6. The woman has since married and moved to Los Angeles. Gilmore is paying child support out of his personal funds, said Flannery.
In 1989, said Cummins, Gilmore approached church officials and told them about the children.
"Father Gilmore wished to remain in the priestly ministry. He had the support of the priests with whom he worked," said Cummins. The priest also "indicated a serious change of heart."
Since he had made arrangements for the woman, Gilmore was allowed to stay, said Cummins. The bishop noted that at the time, penalties for sexual misconduct were not as clearly defined by the church.
"Now, more than likely, that priest would probably be suspended, and we would encourage him to assume responsibilities of fatherhood," Flannery said.
In 1991, the board of priests that determines personnel placements made Gilmore the pastor of St. Perpetua, which serves about 1,000 families in Lafayette.
MERCURY CENTER ID: me10665f
Transmitted: 94-10-29 05:13:28 ED