Thursday, June 13, 2024

Vatican probes “sex party” in cathedral

A view of St. Mary's Cathedral in Newcastle, Britain

The Catholic Church is investigating allegations of a “sex party” that took place at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Newcastle while the rest of the UK was under strict lockdown rules, the Sunday Times reported. The probe is part of a wider Vatican inquiry into the diocese, involving multiple cases of sexual abuse.

In a letter cited by the newspaper on Sunday, the Archbishop of Liverpool wrote that he had been asked by the Pope’s advisers to compile “an in-depth report” into events leading up to the resignation of Robert Byrne as the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle in December.

Byrne was made bishop in 2019, and immediately appointed Father Michael McCoy as the Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Newcastle. 

When the UK was placed under strict lockdown rules the following year, McCoy allegedly approached several parishoners and asked them to attend “a party” at the cathedral, a source told the Times. This event was described by the source as “a sex party taking place in the priests’ living quarters attached to Newcastle cathedral.”

There is no evidence that Byrne knew about or took part in the alleged sex party. McCoy committed suicide in 2021 after police opened an investigation into historic allegations of child sex abuse involving the clergyman. He had not been charged with an offense at the time of his death.

McCoy is not the only priest with an apparently checkered history to pass through Byrne’s diocese. A separate investigation by the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA) is probing reports that Father Tim Gardner, a convicted pedophile, was offered church-owned accommodation within the diocese after he had been found guilty and sentenced to eight months in prison.

Gardner had been caught with more than 500 illicit images of children on his computer, some of which he took himself. He was teaching religious education at a Catholic school in London at the time of his conviction.

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