Priest 'caught snorting cocaine in parochial house with Nazi memorabilia on display'
A Northern Ireland priest accused of taking cocaine at his parochial house and displaying Nazi memorabilia has taken a leave of absence from the priesthood.
Allegations were made over the weekend in a Sunday newspaper that Father Stephen Crossan (37) had snorted cocaine at a party on the grounds of St Patrick's Church in Banbridge last July.
A video of the incident was also uploaded onto the newspaper's website.
In the short video Father Crossan is seen at a house party being handed a rolled-up £10 note.
He can be heard saying "I shouldn't" before snorting what's believed to be cocaine from a plate.
Pictures were also published of Nazi memorabilia including a golden eagle with a swastika on a mantlepiece and a Second World War German officer's hat.
Father Crossan told the newspaper: “It was just the one night and that was it. I do not have an issue with drugs.”
He continued: “I’m no Nazi. I collect historical stuff. There’s stuff there from every country.”
Fr Crossan added that he was on sick leave with depression at the time, had since left the church but was being supported by the Parish.
An unnamed source told the newspaper: "The house was lovely but we were stunned to see the Nazi stuff. It was all over the house. At one point Stephen put on a cap and did the Nazi salute.
“It’s shocking. He’s supposed to be an upstanding member of society. He shouldn’t be taking drugs.”
The Bishop of Dromore, Dr John McAreavey, said in a statement he had "no knowledge of the incident" but confirmed Stephen Crossan was now taking an "extended leave from the Priesthood."
He added he would pray for Stephen and "whatever issues he is facing at the moment".
Dr McAreavey added he was concerned for his health and would pray and support him "through whatever issues he is facing at the moment".
He confirmed that in May 2015 Fr Crossan, a curate in the Diocese of Dromore, was granted leave from pastoral duties in Seapatrick Parish on health grounds.
Since that time he has received counselling "whilst also considering his own future".
At the start of February, Fr Crossan informed the Bishop he wished to take an extended leave of absence from the priesthood.
A letter from Fr Crossan was read out at Masses in Seapatrick parish on the weekend of February 14.
In it, he said: "Following a period of reflection, I have decided to take an extended leave of absence from the priestly ministry.
"I would like to thank Canon Stevenson and the people of Seapatrick parish for their kindness to me during my time in Banbridge.
"I wish you all every blessing for the future. I would ask you to keep me in your prayers."
It's understood that he has now completely vacated the parochial house in Banbridge, as well as the pastoral and ministerial aspects of his role.