Priest fathers a child but remains with North Miami parish. Catholic church has a message

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The Archdiocese of Miami announced Tuesday that one of its priests fathered a child from a former relationship, but that he would remain in service of his parishioners.

According to Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta, Monsignor Chanel Jeanty, 49, pastor of St. James Catholic Church since 2015, learned in December that he fathered a child from a relationship with a woman that ended over a year ago.

What the Archdiocese said

“The information did not come from the mother of the child but from another source. Monsignor Jeanty appropriately reached out to the mother and plans to contribute to the support of his child,” Agosta’s release said.

The Archdiocese did not name the source and said that Jeanty would not be available for comment. “Msgr. Chanel Jeanty is focused on his priorities and responsibilities, both personally and pastorally, and will not be available,” Agosta said.

Jeanty did not respond to an email from the Miami Herald seeking comment.

On Tuesday, Jeanty resigned his administrative roles of Vicar General and Chancellor for Canonical Affairs within the Archdiocese of Miami. But he still serves his pastor’s role in ministry at St. James, Agosta said.

St. James Catholic Church, a large congregation established in 1953, is at 13155 NW Seventh Ave. in North Miami.

The Archdiocese’s release said that Jeanty “has already sought God’s forgiveness, and he is asking for the forgiveness of his parishioners, who will be disappointed when they learn of his lapse. Monsignor Jeanty must face his parishioners and seek to regain their trust, as he continues to serve, and at the same time attends to his responsibilities to the child.”

Canton Exalus, a longtime parishioner told WPLG Local 10 that he’s ready to forgive Jeanty.

“I know he’s a good person, but I don’t know his heart,” Exalus told the station. ”He’s human.”

Vatican’s evolving guidelines

For at least nine centuries Catholic priests have had to take a vow of celibacy. In many instances, the priests who violate the vow either leave the church or are removed from conducting services.

But not always.

According to a CBS News report in 2019, unspecified Vatican guidelines concerning priests who father children, despite their vows of celibacy, have been allowed to remain as practicing priests. Vincent Doyle, the founder of a support group for children of priests, told CBS News “he’s been pushing the Church to publicly support those children, who often grow up living in shame and secrecy.”

Message of the Archdiocese of Miami

Locally, the message in Jeanty’s case is one of “forgiveness,” said Agosta in an email to the Miami Herald.

“The Catholic Church’s preaches what Jesus Christ has taught us, forgiveness, and it is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in personal life experiences, with face-to-face conversations, that one asks and grants forgiveness,” Agosta said.

“It is Msgr. Chanel Jeanty’s prayer and hope that what he has been able to teach and have the St. James Catholic Church parishioners experience forgiveness, this now will be extended to him. Msgr. Jeanty has asked God for forgiveness, and now, Msgr. Jeanty now asks his parishioners and Catholics of the Archdiocese of Miami to forgive him,” Agosta said in her email.

Jeanty can continue to minister to his parishioners, Agosta said.

“Breaking vows can be healed by forgiveness, first by God. The Church teaches it, grants it, and many times asks for it. This is one of those times — forgiveness, that is. And as Jesus taught us ‘he without sin cast the first stone,’” Agosta said in her email.

Celibacy and other Miami priests

The revelation comes as the Archdiocese has been dealing with another, far more serious scandal: the conviction of a priest who raped a parishioner.

Jeanty was listed a witness in the criminal case against Father Jean Claude Philippe, of Homestead’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Philippe is awaiting sentencing after he was convicted in October of raping a female parishioner in the church rectory. Jeanty’s bit role: Philippe, after his arrest in March 2019, attended a meeting with Jeanty and Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

In that meeting, according to a memo authored later by Jeanty, Philippe admitted to the archbishop he’d invited the woman to his home at the church and massaged her, but claimed she “came onto him.” Ultimately, Jeanty was not called to testify at trial about Philippe’s admissions.

Father Alberto Cutié in a Miami Herald file photo.
Father Alberto Cutié in a Miami Herald file photo.

In one of the more high-profile cases of a Catholic priest breaking the vow of celibacy and the repercussions, Father Alberto Cutié was a popular Roman Catholic priest in Miami Beach who left the Archdiocese of Miami in 2009 after photos surfaced of him kissing a woman on the beach who would later become his wife, the Miami Herald reported.

Cutié left the Catholic priesthood and became an Episcopalian priest with the Diocese of Southeast Florida. He is the rector at St. Benedict’s in Plantation. He also hosts a radio talk show on WQBA 1140 AM.

In 2009, the Miami Herald reported the story of the Rev. David Dueppen, who fathered a daughter with a dancer he had met at the Porky’s strip club in Miami. The two engaged in a child custody battle and were given joint custody. Dueppen, who had been placed on indefinite administrative leave by the Archdiocese and left the church, was at the same South Beach parish Cutié had served.

Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle and Carli Teproff contributed to this report.

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