10 January 2014, The Tablet

Scottish bishop defends suspension of priest

A Scottish bishop has defended the decision to suspend a priest who had written a controversial memoir claiming there was a culture of homosexual bullying in the Catholic Church in Scotland.

The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Joseph Toal, who is also administrator of the Motherwell diocese, said in a letter read in all parishes last Sunday that the actions of Fr Matthew Despard of St John Ogilvie’s Church in High Blantyre, Lanarkshire, had caused “concern and anxiety” to a significant number and that he saw no alternative to continuing the “penal judicial process” begun against Fr Despard by the Bishop Emeritus of Motherwell, Joseph Devine, who stood down from the diocese last year.

Some parishioners walked out of church when the news was announced in November that Fr Despard was being suspended.

It has left the diocese divided over the issue. Fr Despard’s book was published online and claimed a there was a “powerful gay mafia” running the Church in Scotland, and was released after the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien who stepped down following accusations of sexual misconduct.

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