Irish bishops, who have taken the lead in addressing the plight of children of Catholic priests, are signaling another envelope-pushing response to the problem that the Catholic Church has long sought to hide.

A top official in the Irish bishops' conference has left open the possibility that a priest who fathers a child could remain in the priesthood under certain circumstances, such as if it's in the best interest of the child and if he respects his vow of celibacy going forward.

Conference executive secretary Monsignor Gearoid Dullea made the comments in an April 10 letter obtained this week by The Associated Press. He was responding to questions by Vincent Doyle, the Irish son of a priest who has been lobbying the church to better care for these secret families.