The Vatican is investigating a Kenyan man’s claim that his father is an Italian missionary priest who impregnated his mother when she was 16, a case that highlights how the Catholic Church is reckoning with Africa’s legacy of sexual abuse and priests fathering children.
Gerald Erebon has been an outcast of sorts for all of his 30 years: Tall and light-skinned with wavy hair, Erebon looks nothing like the dark-skinned Kenyan man listed as his father on his birth certificate, or like his black mother and siblings.
Erebon, his family and villagers in remote Archer’s Post, Kenya say that’s because he is the son of the Rev. Mario Lacchin, an 83-year-old Italian priest of the Consolata Missionaries religious order who ministered in Archer’s Post in the 1980s.
“According to my birth certificate, it is like I am living a wrong life, a lie,” Erebon told The Associated Press in a series of interviews in Nairobi and Archer’s Post.
“I just want to have my identity, my history.” Lacchin denies he is Erebon’s father and has refused to take a paternity test. His religious superiors haven’t forced him, but arranged a series of three meetings this year between Erebon and Lacchin in hopes of establishing a dialogue between them.
The Vatican stepped in and opened an investigation after Erebon’s claim was brought to its attention in May by an advocate for children of priests, Vincent Doyle.Mr Doyle did so after obtaining birth certificates of Erebon and his late mother Sabina Losirkale, which showed she just turned 16 when she conceived in 1988.
In Kenya, the legal age of consent was and is 18.
Amid the torrent of sex abuse accusations that have rocked the Catholic priesthood, little attention has been paid to the pregnancies resulting from the illicit acts.
And nowhere is this a more glaring issue than in Africa, where flouting of celibacy by priests is a known, long-standing problem.