Saturday, 15 March 2014



A couple of years ago after reading the book PRIESTHOOD IN CRISIS by Scottish priest, Father Matthew Despard

Father Tom Butler with the Bishop to the Forces

I contacted the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, Bishop Michael Campbell about one of his priests who had sexually targeted me while I was in the seminary - a Father Tom Butler. 
On several occasions Father Butler had accosted me in my seminary room naked and aroused under his cassock.
I was not just worried about Father Tom Butler himself who by this time had become a Catholic chaplain in the British army and who not only targeted myself in the seminary and who had also targeted others.

I was also worried because Tom Butler himself while a very young boy had been taken to Rome by another priest - possibly of Lancaster Diocese - and sexually abused in Rome. In fact the priest and the young Tom Butler spent all day in bed together - the priest only leaving the room to say Mass!

Furthermore the young Tom Butler had been sexually abused by a lay teacher while attending a Catholic school in the Diocese of Lancaster. 

I was concerned about Tom Butler's current state of mind but I was also very deeply concerned that the other priest and teacher who had abused him were still alive and possibly continuing to abuse young boys or others.

I wanted Bishop Campbell to conduct a full investigation into all these matters and assure me that things were okay and that no children, minors or vulnerable adults were in any danger within his diocese from anyone. 
I have known Bishop Campbell for 30 years as he and his family come from Larne in County, Antrim, Ireland where I live.
I was very disappointed when Bishop Campbell did not reply to me letter and he has never contacted me since to give me the reassurances I needed. Instead he got a permanent deacon from the Lancaster Diocese to contact me to ask me some further questions. Not even that deacon has gotten back to me to let me know that an investigation has taken place and that no one is in danger.

This week, by complete coincidence I learned that Father Butler has been taken out of the army and has been promoted by Bishop Campbell to be the parish priest of three united parishes in Cumbria -

Wigton, Maryport and Silloth. 
It seems to me that the Roman Catholic Church in general and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales feels it has no obligation to respond to those who bring Safeguarding concerns to their attention?

It used to be the case that when concerns about priests were expressed to bishops that the bishops simply moved priests from posting to posting. I hope that these practices have stopped? 

Father Despard, mentioned above, has been suspended by the Catholic Church in Scotland for highlighting the fact of a Gay Mafia in the priesthood who were bulling other priests and seminarians who were both "straight" and gay. Father Despard had experienced this bullying himself in the seminary and while acting as a chaplain in the British Army.

I have not had the opportunity to read Father Despard's book as it has been removed from Amazon Kindle. Many people feel that Father Despard is homophobic in the book. If so, that is sad and he needs to understand that homophobia, like racism or sexism is wrong and sinful. Perhaps he was writing out of a sense of hurt and betrayal? 

I am a priest myself who happens to be gay. I believe that there is a very central place in the Catholic priesthood for gay priests, even and especially when they are in committed partnerships.

However there are a number of problems:

1. There are gay priests everywhere in the Catholic Church who are bullies and mafia like and who other priests, seminarians and lay people a very rough time. These people are often living double lives and appear to have no faith and are very cynical. They preach against homosexuality and sex outside marriage on a Sunday morning and on Sunday night they are to be found in the gay saunas and they holiday several times a year in the gay holiday spots. 

2. There is a massive difference between gay priests who have consensual relationships with other adults and priests who are sexually interested in minors or children. It is a massive untruth to use the words "gay" and "paedophile" together.

3. Those in authority in the Catholic Church must learn that the days of cover-ups are over and they must respond with openness, integrity and truthfulness when Safeguarding concerns are brought to their attention.

+Pat Buckley


  1. The story gets bigger wider and more repetitive. Sadly without much positive progress. Have you noticed how there are dedicated days for every cause under heaven. Why not have a Say no to Church Abuse Sunday. A Sunday when people choose not to go to mass. I would also propose that on this particular Sunday the weekly contribution should be diverted to a non church based but worthy charity of choice. Pennies is the only things these bollixis understand. Sean

  2. Bishop Buckley, you are right. The real danger is that the other priest and Catholic teacher in Lancaster are sill alive and abusing. I hope that Father Butler has named them to the bishop and that the bishop has ensured that they are either safe or dead. I cannot understand why Bishop Campbell did not get back to you to let you know all was well. That worries me.

    Retired Priest - Diocese of Lancaster.

  3. Has there been an audit of all the abuse cases in Lancaster Diocese?

    If not one is way overdue!

    Gaven - Carlisle

  4. Bishop Pat, why did YOU not report that this man targeted you sexually to the seminary authorities?

    1. I did report it immediately to a senior priest on the seminary staff and told Tom Butler that I had reported it. After that he ignored me but I know he went on to target and have encounters with others. But as a seminarian you are very vulnerable.

      My friend was a seminarian in The Irish College in Rome and was targeted by a very aggressive gay mafia there. They made his like hell - stuffing lurid notes under his door, telephoning his room in the middle of the night and even stealing his underwear from the college laundry room. He was later expelled and his tormentors ordained.

      But I still think that one should whistle blow


  5. You seem to linking his being abused as a child to his later acting out. this happens but in most cases with victims it doesn't, Whatever harm they might inflict on themselves they don't hurt others. There is no excuse for his later behaviour.

  6. Bishop Pat, I'm sure it wasn't a pleasant experience being accosted by Father Butler when he was a young man and a seminarian. But, I'm sure you were able to handle yourself, and I doubt if you were psychologically and emotionally seared and scarred by the experience. In part, seminaries are places where young men have to test and discover who they are, including their sexuality, and places where they can decide if they are able to live a vocation to the priesthood, including the requirement of celibacy. I blame the Church for the daft compulsory imposition of celibacy for a great deal of the difficulties with priests and their sexual acting out, although I accept that the more sinister end of the acting out, in particular abuse of young people and children, is completely wrong.

    What intrigues me about this post is not so much the news that people like Father Butler, when they were young and in seminary. acted out sexually, but the introduction of the matter of Father Matthew Despard. That is a strange story. What stands out clearly to me is the way the bishops in his diocese, including Bishop Devine about whom you post in the matter of his new 'palace', and in particular Bishop Toal the current Administrator, have acted. Most recently Father Despard has been suspended and removed from his house. It appears to me that the strategy is 'to shoot the messenger'. Father Despard may have been ill advised to publish his book, but the reaction to it is indicative of the inability of bishops in Scotland to learn from the past. Rather than engaging with the issues raised by Father Despard, investigating them, and addressing them, they simply revert to old use and custom and silence him and punish him. Will they ever learn ?

    Bishops Toal / Devine et al need to be very careful, for I have no doubt that the vast majority of what Father Despard recounts is in fact the reality. He is not making it up. How do I know ? Well, because I was closely connected to some of the period he is taking about, and he is spot on in recounting that period with which I know something. I would put my money on his account being accurate for the other periods of his life that he recounts. I note also that notwithstanding much huffing and puffing, nobody who is named in his account has sued him. If they are so wrong done by, then I would expect somebody to sue him for dragging their name and reputation through the mud ? But no, not a whimper. Why ? Because they know that if they do take that course, Father Despard would be proven to be telling the truth.

    So, the bishops of Scotland need to address what Father Despard has said, look at the culture he is describing, and ensure that it is not still alive and active. I'm not so worried about the odd over affectionate squeeze between seminarians or priests or others (although I repeat my earlier caveat about children and young people), but more about the substantial matter of bullying, coercion, and clerical cliques of power who are able to run things and influence things to their and their friends' advantage. And to the disadvantage of priests who are not favoured and not part of the 'in group'. The case of Cardinal O'Brien has strong shades of the sort of situation Father Despard recounts.

    I'm not hopeful. I think Toal and Devine and others will continue merrily on their way, trying to preserve the good name of the Church and avoid scandal, punishing those who say inconvenient things and generally acting in ways which have in the past damaged the Church. They live and work in an old culture which has had its day, and has done considerable damage to the Church, and they, the bishops, need to be swept away, indeed even be made to answer for their actions and decisions. It is they, not the likes of Father Despard, who should be suspended and removed from their homes.

    1. Nobody responding seems interested in the position of the faithful lay church. I can understand why it is that both heterosexual and homosexual priests find celibacy difficult but these are priests who demand in their own controlling ways that members of their respective congregations either keep their vows or accept the loss of participation in the Eucharist. How do these ordained men reconcile with their clear duplicity and hypocrisy. They can break their vows because they are priests. Lay members cannot break their vows because they are not priests. Is it privilege or rank?

  7. "I am a priest myself who happens to be gay. I believe that there is a very central place in the Catholic priesthood for gay priests, even and especially when they are in committed partnerships." Am I reading this right? What about the vow of celibacy?