STOCKTON (CBS13) — A well-known and well-loved Stockton priest is stepping down after announcing he's fathering a child.
Father Dean McFalls is speaking out about his move at St. Mary's Church that has stunned parishioners.
McFalls decided to go public about being an expectant father of a baby boy to quell any rumors about his departure.
"I didn't want the baby to be hidden away, or somehow run from the city," he said.
The popular and outspoken Stockton priest says it was his decision and his alone to step down from St. Mary's, saying his focus now is on being responsible for a child.
Parishioners attending Tuesday night's mass acknowledge their now-former pastor made a mistake, but applaud his honesty.
"Proud of him standing his own ground and taking care of his own kid right now instead of hiding," said Emmanuel Navarro.
Natalie Lerma has known McFalls for two decades and says his departure is a huge loss.
"I was sad that he resigned. He's a wonderful man," she said.
Lerma believes it's time for the Catholic church to reevaluate its long-held tradition requiring priests to be celibate and unmarried.
"I don't think babies are wrong and I don't think loving people is wrong, so maybe I think it's time we look at things differently," said Lerma.
For now, McFalls is asking for forgiveness from his parishioners and the people of Stockton.
"Maybe there will be a time again where priests can marry as they did for the first 1,000 years in the life of the church, but I really don't want to argue that as a justification for what's happened to me," he said.
He wouldn't' say if he plans to marry and declined to identify the mother of the child. He also hasn't been defrocked by the diocese, and he intends to stay in Stockton.
Beyond that, he isn't sure what his future holds.
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