UK priest guilty of defamation over gay bullying slurs

A priest who alleged a gay mafia was behind bullying in the Scottish church has been found guilty of defamation.

A Church tribunal found that Fr Matthew Despard of St John Ogilvie in Lanarkshire had injured the reputation of the Church as well as clergy and lay people.

Already under suspension, he will be removed from his parish and will have to spend three months in penance.

The priest made the claims in a book he self-published in the Internet titled “Priesthood in Crisis”.

Fr Despard claimed that sexual misconduct had been widespread in junior seminaries for decades.

He also said he had alerted Church authorities, but that nothing had been done.

In a letter to Fr Despard, the Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Toal, said: “The judges determined that of the 21 of the 26 charges brought against Fr Despard, five were not proven.”

“In the majority of cases, the tribunal ruled that Fr Despard had injured the good reputation of a number of people, both lay and clergy.”

Fr Despard did not take part in the tribunal, but was represented by a lawyer.

The bishop added: “The bishop regrets that a penal case had to be pursued against Fr Despard, but felt it necessary in order to vindicate the reputation of those wrongly accused by him.”

Fr Despard will reportedly appeal against the tribunal’s ruling.

When he was suspended, his parishioners launched a petition in protest.

Parishioners also boycotted a Mass celebrated by the diocese’s apostolic administrator at St John Ogilvie.

Priesthood in Crisis, which appeared just after Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned over sexual misconduct, was originally made available through Amazon.

It was withdrawn from sale by Amazon in the United Kingdom (although it remains available in the US) because of lawsuits threatened by individuals who were named in the book.


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