Thursday 24 January 2019

Investigation into sex in church claim

GardaÍ and diocese looking into claims after photos of sex on altar of north cork church appear online

Bill Browne

A spokesperson for the Cloyne Diocese has confirmed that a church within its coverage area was the location of alleged sex acts, graphic images of which have appeared online.

The photographs appear to show two males, one dressed as a priest, engaging in sexual activity in the church, which The Corkman understands is situated in a rural North Cork village.

The images appear to show two males engaging in different sex acts on top of and around the altar of the church. The spokesman said the church believed to be the location where the incident was alleged to have taken place, on an as yet unknown date, was within the Cloyne Diocese. However, he declined to say the exact location of the church.

"We have reported this to the Gardaí and are awaiting the results of their investigations into the matter. At present we are waiting to find out if there is any substance to the allegation," said the spokesman.

He confirmed that regular masses were still being said in the church. "There is no reason not to carry on as normal until such a time as a full investigation has been undertaken and it is determined if the allegations are true or not."

The spokesperson said that, should the allegations be proved to be true, a decision would then be taken as to whether the church building in question should be reconsecrated. "That is a decision that would have to be made by the bishop (of Cloyne)," he said. 

Meanwhile, a Garda spokesman confirmed to The Corkman that they are aware of the allegation and are in the process of making enquiries.

"While we have not received a formal complaint in relation to the alleged incident, it has been brought to our attention and an investigation is currently underway," said the spokesperson.

It is believed the investigation will include a detailed forensic examination of the photographs and if a criminal act had taken place. Under the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act (2017) a person who, in a public place, which under the act is defined as 'any place to which the public have access whether as of right or by permission and whether subject to or free of charge' engages in specified sexual activities is guilty of an offence. 

If convicted on indictment a person can be fined and/or jailed for up two years. 

According to a report in The Sunday World, 'independent' bishop Pat Buckley had initially reported the images to senior church officials. He told The Sunday World that the photographs had originated from a priest, not believed to be attached to the church in question, on a website who sent them to another web-user in a bid to solicit him for a sexual rendezvous.  He said the issue did not relate to the sexuality of the men involved in the alleged incident but to the 'desecration' of a religious site.