Scottish parishioners walked out of Mass at St John Ogilivie's Church in High Blantyre on Sunday, in protest at the sudden dismissal of their parish priest, Father Matthew Despard the night before.
Father Despard, 48, published his book 'Crisis in the Priesthood' on Amazon after the resignation of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who admit ted that he had gay relationships over a number of years and was accused by some priests of making unwanted homosexual advances towards them.
In April this year, the previous Bishop of Motherwell Bishop Joseph Devine, had said that no sanctions would be taken against Fr Despard. On Saturday Bishop Toal told the congregation that a 'penal judicial process' had been instituted against Fr Despard because of the book.
When acting Bishop Joseph Toal came to say Mass in the parish with Fr William Nolan, who has been appointed temporary administrator, one woman got up to speak in defence of Fr Despard. The majority of the congregation then stood up and walked out. Many were in tears. Parishioners have now begun a petition calling for Fr Despard's reinstatement.
A spokesman for Bishop Toal said: "Since there is a canonical case in progress at the present time, Bishop Toal felt it was appropriate to remove Fr Matthew Despard from Parish Ministry until the judicial process has run its course. This action does not prejudice the case in any way."
A source who knows Father Despard personally said: “It's all incredibly sad because this is now going to be nasty and messy and won't end with a positive outcome for anyone.”
Hugh Neilson, a lawyer who is advising Father Despard, said: “Father Despard is traumatised by all this and doesn't want to stir controversy, but people are shocked at the way he has been treated by the Church and have voted with their feet this week end.”
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