PUEBLA, Mexico – Four Roman Catholic priests in central Mexico have resigned after they were caught breaking their celibacy vows, church officials said Wednesday.
The priests will no longer be allowed to celebrate Mass or perform sacraments, the Rev. Eugenio Lira, spokesman for the archdiocese in the central state of Puebla, announced in a statement.
The clerics were either caught in a romantic relationship or discovered to have fathered children, Lira said. He did not identify the priests or provide details of their alleged indiscretions.
In the traditionally conservative state of Puebla — known for its high concentration of Catholic churches — reaction to the priests' resignations was mixed.
Alfredo Miranda, rector of the Catholic Popular Autonomous University of Puebla State, said he supported the priests' separation from the church.
David Fernandez, rector of the Jesuit Iberoamerican University's Puebla campus, said the church needs to modernize its practices and rethink its celibacy requirements. He said the celibacy rule came from church leaders, not the Gospel.
"It is a human law that can end at some point," he said.
Although celibacy is a tradition dating to the Roman Catholic Church's earliest days, it was not mandatory until the 11th century.
Several years ago, church officials in Puebla were criticized for allegedly protecting the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar, a priest accused of molesting dozens of boys in Mexico and the U.S.
The Vatican revoked Aguilar's priesthood last year. He has been charged in California with 19 felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child in 1988 after he worked as a priest there for nine months.
He remains at large.