Cleric who is prime suspect in 'lewd act on altar' inquiry given counselling
A priest who is the prime suspect in a Garda investigation into lewd acts allegedly committed by the altar of a busy Irish church is now receiving psychological counselling.
The man, who remains in Ireland, is not currently involved in any Church ministry.
He has left the area where he was based on an extended career break.
It remains unclear whether he will return to his parish.
One friend said he was "totally devastated" by the controversy.
"It is very upsetting for everyone not just in the village and parish but for his friends and relatives."
"He has been in a very dark place," he said.
Friends said they were very concerned for the man's welfare.
The controversy erupted when a video of the alleged incidents emerged on social media and was passed to the authorities.
The footage appeared to show two men, one of whom was wearing priestly vestments, engaged in lewd acts by the altar of a busy church.
Church authorities have stressed that no comment will be made given that the matter is currently under investigation by the Gardaí.
Under the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act, 2017 any person who is convicted of engaging in sexual intercourse or lewd behaviour in a public place is liable to a sentence of up to two years in prison.
The Garda investigation is ongoing and it remains unclear what action, if any, will result.Gardaí have obtained a copy of the recording which sparked the controversy.
The cleric involved has not been involved in ministry for some time.
He has attended a specialist centre in Ireland for help with psychological and alcohol dependency issues.
It is understood the man is also receiving weekly counselling sessions.
"We must now wait until the Gardaí finish with their investigations as that takes primacy," a spokesperson for the diocese involved said.
The diocese said no further comment will be made.
While Mass attendances at the church involved dipped in the wake of the controversy, local sources said they are now back to normal levels.