TWO PRIEST LOVERS IN COURT OVER LOVE NEST
Greg Harkin - Irish Independent
A CATHOLIC priest and a former Franciscan brother have been in a decade long battle over a house after their relationship broke down during a Christmas row, a court has heard.
Fr Gabriel Rosbotham, now a curate in Ballina, Co Mayo, and a former Defence Forces chaplain, is suing former lover and ex-cleric Hugo Crawford over part ownership of a cottage in a rural area close to Co Donegal’s Bluestack Mountains.
|Father Gabriel Rosbotham - Curate -|
Donegal Town Circuit Civil Court heard how the two met at Galway University in the 1970s.
Mr Crawford said he joined the Franciscans in Killiney House, Dublin, in 1975, taking his vows as a brother there a year later.
|Hugh Crawford - Former Franciscan|
He met Fr Rosbotham, then also a Franciscan, again a decade later at Broc House in Donnybrook.
Judge Keenan Johnson heard claims that Mr Crawford left the Franciscans and bought Rose Cottage at Letterbarrow for IR£ 23,500 in 1994, paying a deposit of IR £5,000 from ‘pocket money’ he had saved whilst in the Franciscans.
Peter Nolan, barrister for Fr Rosbotham, alleged that the priest could not put his name on the mortgage and title deeds because he remained in the Franciscans under a vow of poverty. Mr Crawford, having left the Franciscans, was able to do so he alleged.
Mr Crawford accepted that his former partner had contributed towards Rose Cottage, helping with bills and paying for groceries on occasion, although he denied it was as often as Mr Nolan had put to him.
The former Franciscan brother, who decided not to enter the priesthood, insisted that Fr Rosbotham only contributed €1,700 towards mortgage payments.
Under continuing cross-examination, Mr Crawford admitted writing a letter to First Active bank in September 2000 asking them to add Fr Rosbotham’s name to the title deeds as the priest was “helping with repayments of the loan”.
Asked why he did that, Mr Crawford told Mr Nolan: “I gave instructions to that effect but I never followed through.”
Mr Nolan asked the witness: “Were you in a relationship.” The witness replied: “Yes, we had a sexual relationship.”
Fr Rosbotham, who had given evidence when the case was part heard at the same court in July, 2013, was recalled to give further evidence yesterday on the circumstances of the break-up. “I felt like an absolute stranger at Rose Cottage. It didn’t seem to be your own. I was tired of the arguments, usually over his family who came and went as they pleased,” said the priest.
On St Stephen’s Day 2002, after another row over family, Fr Rosbotham left.
James O’Donnell, defending Mr Crawford, put it to the priest that he had been “living a lie”.
Fr Rosbotham replied: “Yes, I was. And so was Mr Crawford.”
In 1997 Fr Rosbotham left the Franciscans and became a Diocesan priest in Ballina.
Fr Gabriel Rosbotham, a curate in Ballina, Co Mayo, was given the award at a sitting of Donegal Circuit Civil Court this morning.
Judge Keenan Johnson said former Franciscan friar Hugo Crawford was entitled to a 73pc share in the property known as Rose Cottage in the town land of Letterbarrow, near Mountcharles.
Fr Rosbotham had sought a 50pc share of the house.
The court had heard yesterday that the two had been partners and had each paid costs towards the mortgage and upkeep of the house.
However Mr Crawford, who left the Franciscans in 1990s and bought the house in his name in 1994, had defended the claim.
The men had become partners around 1986 when they met in the Franciscan Order in Dublin.
The judge said he had found both witnesses to be "very credible and honest".
He went on: "They are both clear very decent men who still have considerable regard for each other. They have dedicated their lives to helping others, Fr Rosbotham as a priest and Mr Crawford as a carer.
"I think it is unfortunate that this matter had to be aired in court and it certainly strikes me as a case that was tailor-made for mediation. Had the parties agreed to mediation, the matter could have been dealt with in private, with each of the parties retaining ownership of the ultimate resolution."
Judge Johnson had calculated Fr Rosbotham's contribution to the home as €22,579, with Mr Crawford's contribution at €51,193.
Rounding to the nearest percentage, the Judge made his order.
He refused an application on behalf of Mr Crawford for a stay on the judgement and no order for costs was made.
Judge Johnson asked that a new valuation of the property be undertaken.
I think that hese two men were foolish to let this matter go to open court and into the public domain and therefore the newspapers. They should both have agreed to mediation.
Father Gabriel Rosbotham who is still a curate in the parish of Ballina in the Diocese of Killala had most to lose by the publicity.
The Bishop of Killala, John Flemming, must now decide what to do about Father Rosbotham.
|Bishop John Flemming|
After this very public court case you will find that the priests and people of Ballina and Mayo will be talking about it all.
I suppose if Father Rosbotham is now "celibate" Bishop Flemming and he could decide to sit the scandal out?
BUT THE BIGGER PROBLEM FOR THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN IRELAND AND FURTHER AFIELD IS THAT THESE RELATIONS ARE NOT UNCOMMON.
IN FACT MANY - IF NOT MOST PRIESTS - ARE IN RELATIONSHIPS WITH MEN AND WOMEN.
THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME I HAVE COME ACROSS THE SITUATION WHERE A PRIEST AND HIS PARTNER HAVE INVESTED IN A "LOVE NEST".
SOMETIMES THE LOVE NEST IS A ROOM IN THE SEMINARY. SOMETIMES IT IS A PRESBYTERY. SOMETIMES IT IS A CONVENT. SOMETIMES IT IS A HOLIDAY CARAVAN.
“What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines.”
― Ignatius of Loyola
― Ignatius of Loyola