The Catholic Church in Scotland has admitted it has no idea how many Scottish priests, or those working in the country, have fathered children.
But campaigners have claimed children were sent to Scotland from Ireland and England as a way of keeping them hidden from parish communities which may find out about their parentage.
Campaign group Coping International, founded by Vincent Doyle, who grew up in Ireland believing a priest was his godfather only to discover he was actually his dad, has warned it can push people to ‘psychosis’.
Mr Doyle said: “We are supporting eight Scottish people.
“Eight may seem like a small number to many, but for those eight people their lives have been hugely affected.
“They have been hidden, they have had confidentiality agreements too. They are scared.
“We have one Scottish woman we are working with who was fathered by an Irish priest.
“They moved to Scotland and hid her there and she has hidden ever since. She doesn’t know what to do or how to bring it up.
“These people are terrified. One guy I know has psychosis, he’s on the verge of schizophrenia.
“We have a lot of kids also from Ireland and England sent to Scotland, who were adopted but now through things like ancestry.com and DNA matching sites they are finding out their roots and what actually happened.
“There are around 740 priests in Scotland at the minute, but how many men have been ordained in Scotland or how many Scottish men have been missionary priests over the last 100 years?
“That is where the real question is.
“When you take that into consideration, if only one per cent of those priests fathered children, you’re talking about a surprising number.
“On a global level, we know about 10,000 children in this position and that is only the ones we know about, it’s a hugely conservative estimate.”
Two years ago, Pope Francis, said he would consider the possibility of allowing married men to join the priesthood, which is set to be discussed further this year.
Mr Doyle has described priests parenting children as “clerical abuse”.
However, the Catholic Church rebutted claims it was widespread.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “There are no central records of such cases and while the church would not necessarily be aware of them, there is no suggestion of significant numbers in this country.”
He also said there had been several priests who had left the priesthood to pursue relationships, and in his view there was no stigma around the issue.
He said: “If a priest was to say to his bishop that he had fathered a child and, whether he wanted help to leave the priesthood and set up as a father or to remain in the priesthood but be able to support the child, the church would do whatever they could to support either of those options.
“Every year a number [of priests] leave to get married.
“One left from Glasgow last year, for example. In the past that would have been seen as much more scandalous and a stigma.
“The view now is that the church is grateful for the service that you have given.”