Local Catholic Bishop Resigns after Revealing Secret Family

San Gabriel Valley Tribune
January 4, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Irwindale on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2011. Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, 60, resigned today after revealing to superiors that he fathered two children. (Watchara Phomicinda/Staff Photographer)

This May 26, 2006 photo shows Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles Gabino Zavala. Bishop Zavala resigned Wednesday Jan. 4 2012 after after admitting that he fathered two children who are now teenagers. (EMILIO FLORES)

IRWINDALE - An auxiliary bishop for the Catholic Church's San Gabriel Pastoral Region on Wednesday stepped down after revealing to superiors that he fathered two children.

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, 60, resigned Wednesday under the code of canon law that lets bishops step down earlier than the normal retirement age of 75 if they're sick or for some other reason that makes them unfit for office.

The pope accepted the early resignation from Zavala, who has since 1994 overseen 67 parishes and several Catholic Schools throughout East Los Angeles, Pasadena and the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys.

"Bishop Zavala grew up in Los Angeles and has many friends and family and I think for people who've heard this news today, it's sad and unexpected for many of those who know him," said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

In a letter to the faithful, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said Zavala had told him in December that he had two minor teenage children who lived with their mother in a different state.

Zavala subsequently submitted his resignation to the pope and has since been out of the ministry and will be "living privately," according to the letter posted on the blog of the Catholic News Service of the U.S. Conference of Catholic


"The archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. The family's identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy," Gomez said.

Gomez appointed The Rev. Monsignor James Loughnane from St. Denis Catholic Church in Diamond Bar to serve in Zavala's place at the Pastoral center at 16009 E. Cypress Ave. in Irwindale, Tamberg said.

"That person will assume the administrative role for the region and then it will up to the Vatican to decide when and if to create another auxiliary bishop for Los Angeles and we have no idea what that timeline would be," Tamberg said.

According to the Archdiocese website, Zavala was born in Mexico and grew up in Los Angeles. He was ordained a priest in 1977 by Cardinal Timothy Manning and was assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, in East Los Angeles. Cardinal Roger Mahony ordained him as Auxiliary Bishop for the San Gabriel Region in 1994.

He oversaw the day-to-day pastoral and administrative tasks, Tamberg said. He also celebrated Mass, heard confessions and administered other sacraments.

During his time as bishop, Zavala was politically active and would on several occasions ask Catholics to contemplate war, poverty, health care, capital punishment, immigration reform, racism and other issues.

In October, he wrote letters in support of about 350 Florida tomato pickers and their allies who marched to Trader Joe's corporate headquarters in Monrovia in October to demand better wages and conditions for farm workers.

While he was a champion of human rights, Zavala's revelation came as a shock to the Catholic community.

"It came as a surprise," Covina resident and parishioner Lina Nolasco, 45, said. "You always suppose that Catholic priests are only supposed to devote themselves to God."

Roman Catholic priests are required to be celibate. Eastern rite priests can be married and married Anglican priests who convert can become Catholic priests.

Though, Nolasco's daughter, Jennifer, 24, said it was unfair for Zavala to be from having his own family.

"Even though I'm Catholic, I think he's entitled to do what he wants," said Jennifer Nolasco, who attends St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Baldwin Park. "It's their choice to preach the word of God, but they have a right to have family members.

This is not the first scandal to spark dismay in the Catholic Church, which has been plagued by allegations of sex abuse claims.

In 2007, San Diego Bishop Robert Brom oversaw a $198.1 million settlement with 144 people who said they were sexually abused by priests, at the time the second-largest abuse settlement since the scandal broke out in the United States in 2002.

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday named Monsignor Cirilio Flores to eventually take over the San Diego diocese when Brom retires.


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