The resignation of a Los Angeles bishop who fathered two children has shocked the nation's most populous Roman Catholic archdiocese, where Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala grew up and was a forceful champion for social and economic justice.

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LOS ANGELES — From humble beginnings in southwest Mexico, Gabino Zavala entered the priesthood and embarked on a remarkable journey that landed him squarely in the corner offices of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese.

An auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, he oversaw the church’s vast San Gabriel region, a diverse community considered vital to the future of the church. Then, from his pulpit, he became a forceful champion for social and economic justice.

Popular and approachable, Zavala was widely known by his first name. To many, that sensibility made the Vatican’s announcement on Wednesday unthinkable: For more than a decade, Zavala had harbored a dark secret. He is the father, church officials said, of two children, and had resigned his post.

Zavala’s fatherhood, a violation of canon laws of celibacy, was the first controversy to rock the local church during the tenure of Archbishop Jose Gomez, who succeeded Roger Mahony last year.

Zavala, who is no longer in ministry but remains a priest and bishop, could not be reached for comment. His resignation is likely to spark renewed debate over celibacy.