Altar sex act by man in priest vestments is caught on camera
Gardaí investigate 'sacrilege'
The Catholic Church has called gardaí to investigate images apparently showing a man in priest's vestments performing a sex act on the altar of an Irish church.
It is understood that several senior clerics, including bishops, have been made aware of the shocking images over recent days.
The Catholic Church confirmed to the Irish Independent the matter had been reported to gardaí and a full investigation is expected to follow into the apparent sacrilege.
A spokesperson for the diocese declined to comment further for legal reasons in view of "the criminal nature of the alleged incident".
A source who obtained the images, and who wants to remain anonymous, described what is depicted as happening in the church as "an abomination".
The graphic images show two men engaged in sexual activity across what appears to be the altar of a small country church, or in intimate poses.
There is no suggestion that the intimate act is not consensual.
However, they have been described as deeply sacrilegious in their depiction of a priest, or man dressed as a priest.
Any investigation will examine the veracity of the images, and the church where the act is alleged to have taken place. "The photographs depict something that appears somewhat satanic," the source told the Irish Independent.
He called for "some sort of an exorcism at that church".
He also questioned how many people had received communion at the altar of the parish church since its violation, or had been confirmed, buried or married from it.
He urged the bishop of the diocese to launch an investigation to determine whether the man in religious vestments is actually a priest.
The diocese concerned declined to give an indication as to whether the church has been re-consecrated.
The Catholic Church teaches that sacrilege occurs when sacred objects are used for an unworthy purpose. This includes the profane use of sacred vestments.
Church law also teaches that defiling a sacred place by sexual acts is sacrilege.
According to Church law: "A church is desecrated by actions that are gravely injurious in themselves and a cause of scandal to the faithful."
The concerning images will be investigated during a year when the Catholic Church in Ireland is facing challenges including the upcoming abortion referendum.
The papal visit in August is expected to be a celebration of the family, but there will also be a strong focus on his response to victims of clerical sex abuse scandals.
The Church has also been under scrutiny over its attitudes towards same-sex couples in the run-up to the World Meeting of Families later in the summer.