Catholic priest allegedly a 'prime suspect' as gardai probe images of sex act on church altar
A Catholic priest has allegedly emerged as a prime suspect in a garda probe into images showing two men engaging in sex acts on a church altar.
The images appear to show the men engaging in sexual acts on the altar of a church in Munster.
Yesterday, ‘independent’ bishop Pat Buckley revealed to The Sunday World that he has reported the images to church bosses.
In the photograph, the men can be seen participating in a variety of different acts, both on top of, and adjacent to, the church altar.
Bishop Buckley told The Sunday World that the images originated from a priest, not believed to be attached to the church in question, on a well known website who sent them to another web-user in a bid to solicit him for a sexual rendezvous.
Bishop Buckley, who is publicly gay, says the issue surrounding the images does not relate to the sexuality of the men but rather to the “desecration” of a religious site in this manner.
Both gardai and the diocese yesterday confirmed investigations are underway and the images themselves are now being subjected to forensic examination.
A spokesperson for the diocese told the Sunday World yesterday the diocese reported the alleged incident to gardai as soon as they received the images from bishop Pat Buckley.
“We received a report of an alleged incident at the church which if true was possibly criminal in nature,” the spokesperson said.
“We must now wait until the gardai finish with their investigations as that takes primacy.”
Under the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act 2017 a person who, in a public place, engages in sexual intercourse is guilty of an offence liable on conviction to a sentence of up to two years in prison.
Speaking yesterday Bishop Buckley told the Sunday World he was shocked at the idea a priest would have involved himself in acts which “clearly constitute a desecration of the altar.”
“I have reported the images to the Catholic Church hierarchy and I am told they have now gone to the gardai,” he said.
Bishop Buckley also questioned whether the church should not be closed pending the outcome of the investigations when it may have to be reconsecrated.
Speaking yesterday, he confirmed the gardai have yet to contact him regarding the origin of the images, but he said he would be willing to do everything he can to help identify the perpetrators.
“I promised the person who passed the images to me anonymity, but I think he might be willing to be interviewed,” Bishop Buckley said.
“In that event I would be willing to travel to Dublin to take part in any meeting between this man and the gardai.”
Bishop Buckley continued: “I believe at present, even if there is a fear an altar has been desecrated in this manner, then they should close the church where it happened so Mass will not be celebrated there until it has been reconsecrated.”