STOCKTON -- Dean McFalls was a beloved priest at Saint Mary's for more than five years.
It's the place where he met one of his parishioners, whom he fell in love with, had a child with and later married. McFalls says he feels blessed to be married and have a son, Gabriel, who is now in kindergarten.
"Gabriel came from heaven, even though he came to sinful parents, who were doing something wrong," McFalls said. "But I have no doubt, whatsoever, he was sent from heaven to put me back on the right track and he has been the greatest gift in my 63 years of life."
Although he eventually left the priesthood, his faith in God is unwavering.
Instead of preaching from the pulpit, he now reaches many as a special education teacher for the school district.
He says he has no regrets and that the life-changing decisions he's made go far deeper than the surface.
"The marriage that my wife and I have, we're not here because it's a license to be sexually active. If someone thinks that's marriage, they are in for a big disappointment," McFalls told FOX40. "We're not here for that kind of intimacy. We're here to share our lives, to build our family on the rock of Christ. To raise a son in the state of grace."
McFalls believes there are thousands of men who'd make excellent priests, some who aren't meant to be alone but be called to marriage as he was.
"He should be able to be a good father to be a priest," McFalls said. "At the same time, it's forbidden that he should even touch a woman or talk to her in an inappropriate way. So you set up this division or this dichotomy."
McFalls says there's no simple fix for the church when it comes to predatory priests. But he believes the church shouldn't prohibit priests and those who want to become priests from marrying.
"You give it a negative light, you cast it into the shadows," McFalls said. "So when a priest is not even able to manifest his sexuality of course it's gonna go downhill. It's gonna go bad. It's just natural."