Gardaí try to verify images of sex act on church altar
Gardai are attempting to verify images that appear to show a sex act being carried out in a provincial church.
This week photographs began to circulate showing a man in priest's vestments engaging in a sex act on the altar of the parish grounds.
A formal complaint has been made to officers at a district Garda station, who are now leading the investigation into the incident.
However, the alleged sex act occurred in a nearby town and not in the parish where investigating gardaí are based.
A Garda spokesman yesterday confirmed that an investigation was under way after gardaí received a report on May 2.
A source told the Irish Independent gardaí were now trying to verify the images of the alleged incident, and would have to establish what crime, if any, had taken place.
"There are a range of different offences that could have been committed here, but gardaí first have to establish if the images in question are authentic. The investigation is still in the early stages, a lewd act may have been committed but that will become apparent at a later stage," the source said.
It is understood that a person connected to the church made the formal complaint.
A person who obtained the images, who wished to remain anonymous, described the incident as "an abomination".
They 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.
The individual also called for "some sort of exorcism" of the church.
"The photographs depict something that appears to be somewhat satanic," they told the Irish Independent.
The graphic images show two men across what appears to be the altar of a small country church, and engaged in intimate poses. There is no suggestion that the intimate act is not consensual.
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.