DETROIT – With his Hollywood-star looks and a doctorate in moral theology, the Rev. Thomas Williams became a nationally known Catholic priest who spoke often on NBC and CBS as an advocate for the Vatican.

But this week, the Bloomfield Hills native announced he fathered a child, becoming the latest prominent leader with the conservative Catholic order Legion of Christ to face scandal.

Williams, 50, stepped down from his prominent position in Rome — where he taught at the Legion’s university — and will take a year off.

Williams is back in Michigan with his parents while recovering from cancer surgery, said the Legion’s director, the Rev. Luis Garza.

In recent years, Williams became the public face of the Legion.

Katie Couric once jokingly referred to Williams as “Father-What-a-Waste,” noting his handsome appearance, recalled Deacon Greg Kandra of New York. Catholic priests are required to be celibate.

“A number of years ago I had a relationship with a woman and fathered her child,” Williams said in a statement released Tuesday. “My superiors and I have decided it would be best for me to take a year without active public ministry to reflect on the wrong I have done.”

A spokesman for the Legion of Christ said Thursday the order wouldn’t comment beyond the statement. It’s unclear when Williams fathered the child or who is the mother.

In an open letter, Garza said to Legion members: “In the wake of all that we have been through as a movement in the past several years, it won’t surprise me if you are disappointed, angry or feel your trust shaken once again.”

Founded in Mexico in 1941 by Marcial Maciel, the Legion of Christ was rocked by scandals involving allegations of child abuse, sexual escapades and financial mismanagement.

Maciel, who died in 2008, was forced out in 2006 after it was revealed he was a serial pedophile and had fathered several children.

Williams was ordained in 1994 and wrote 14 books, one of them titled “Knowing Right From Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience.”