A disturbing new story from Nicole Winfield and Rodney Muhumuza of the Associated Press reveals the secret that haunts 30-year-old Gerald Erebon.
His mother is Kenyan. His father is Kenyan. At least that’s what his birth certificate says. The reality is that his father is actually a white Catholic priest who allegedly raped his mother when she was 16.
The church’s efforts to conceal what is alleged to have happened here would stretch over three decades — a testament to the extraordinary ways in which church officials have dealt with accusations that priests in the developing world have had sex with girls and young women. Here, the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis is just beginning to force a reckoning.
Rev. Mario Lacchin, the Italian priest in question, was transferred somewhere else shortly after his complicity became clear. His personal driver was the man who became Erebon’s father… at least on paper.
This shouldn’t be news to anyone who’s followed the Catholic Church. In 2017, the Boston Globe published a piece about Catholic priests who took a vow of celibacy yet had children anyway. With more than 400,000 priests worldwide, there were an unknowable number of children whose fathers were forced to abandon them due to the Church’s rules. How many of those mothers were underage? We have no way of knowing that for sure.
“You know, it was very shameful in the community,” [the mother’s sister] Scolastica said. “If someone wanted a child, a girl, they just married. So this was just an embarrassment to the whole community.”
[Mother] Sabina was just 16 when she gave birth March 12, 1989. She had conceived a few weeks after her 16th birthday. In Kenya, the legal age of consent was and is 18.
Earlier this year, it was also revealed that the Church literally has a guidebook to help priests navigate this kind of illicit fatherhood. That book suggests that priests should leave the Church to raise their children. It doesn’t require it, though.
In Erebon’s case, the priest’s existence was kept a family and community secret, only revealed to others just before his mother died.
After his mother’s death, Erebon asked Scolastica the question he never had the courage to ask his mother. She remembers hearing him cry over the phone when she told him.
Lacchin has denied paternity. He refuses to take a paternity test. And he’s avoided every opportunity to speak with the AP. But he’s still working for the Catholic Church. His refusal to come to terms with his own allegedly criminal past is just the latest bit of corruption to come out of the Church.