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McFalls remains a priest until laicization is done

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POSTED September 25, 2013 10:35 p.m.

Father Dean McFalls has officially stepped down from his position as pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Stockton after revealing he has fathered a child. But he remains a priest, according to Sister Terry Davis, communications director of the Diocese of Stockton.

He will remain a priest “until the end of a laicization process, but may not function as one,” she said.

Laicization, Davis explained, is the “process to withdraw from the clerical state.” The process could be initiated by McFalls, “but to my knowledge, he has not done so.”

She added, “There is no definite end point” to the leave of absence that was granted to him by the bishop.

However, given the circumstances behind his resignation, “Dean McFalls may no longer function or present himself as a priest,” Davis said.

Celibacy is required of all Catholic priests, and should not be married.

During the two telephone interviews with the former pastor at Lathrop’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Tuesday evening, he said that he will “always be a priest,” but that “I, myself, personally have voluntarily relinquished” his active priestly ministry.

“A child will soon be born, and I am the baby’s father,” McFalls confessed in his statement that was read to St. Mary’s parishioners. “Once he was conceived, I had no other option, as a Christian and a priest, than to do everything possible that he might have life, and have it to the full.

“As St. Paul told the “Romans: ‘God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his decree,’ and though the Lord never decreed that I sin, he does command that all life be respected and nurtured.”

McFalls resignation meant he had to move out of the diocesan residence that he occupied as pastor, which is customary for priests serving parishes.

“He will be living somewhere other than a diocesan facility and will need to support himself,” Davis said.

And what happens if he does marry the mother of his child? “If he married, he would exclude himself from returning to priestly ministry,” she said.

McFalls, who was the first pastor to serve at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lathrop after it was established as a parish 12 years ago after being a mission church of St. George’s in Stockton for a number of years, announced his resignation as pastor in a statement read during masses this past Sunday at St. Mary’s. He also stated that Bishop Stephen Blaire has granted him a leave of absence from active ministry in the priesthood, which was confirmed in a separate statement from the bishop to parishioners.

Appointed by the bishop as interim administrator at St. Mary’s was Father Jose Luis Gutierez who is the diocesan director vocations as well as associate pastor at Presentation Parish in Stockton. Presentation’s pastor is Msgr. Lawrence McGovern, a former pastor at St. Anthony of Padua in Manteca.

The six-county Diocese of Stockton currently has 70 priests in active ministry. All parishes is the diocese have a pastor.

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