Sunday, May 06, 2007

Demand For Church Inquiry As Priest Admits Using Prostitutes

THE conduct of the Catholic priest at the centre of the Angelika Kluk affair last night led to calls for the Church to launch a full inquiry into what happened at St Patrick's Church.

It emerged during the trial that Father Gerry Nugent claimed to have had sex with Angelika, and the Church itself admitted he had needed counselling for a sexual indiscretion - blamed on an alcohol problem - with a parishioner 14 years ago.

But the full extent of Nugent's shocking behaviour yesterday emerged in a newspaper interview in which he admitted picking up prostitutes and bringing them back to his church for "sexual fumblings".

In the interview, Nugent claimed to have had a series of sexual liaisons with parishioners, some of them married. And he repeated the court claim that he had had sex with Angelika but that it was "only once".

He said: "Yes, there were times when I used prostitutes. God, it was about November 2005 when I was back drinking. I was on a real low at the time.

"I took prostitutes back to the church on two separate occasions. It was because I was drinking. I didn't know what I wanted. I didn't even have sex with them. It was more of a sexual fumble."
Nugent, who claims he had sex with Angelika Kluk, added: "Angela [his name for her] was very fond of me. She was infatuated with me and it was a nice feeling.

"I take responsibility for it too. I felt she saw me as a father figure. She trusted me and everything I was doing. She admired me. Angela was no slut. I am weak and we had intimacy three or four times but we had sexual intercourse only once, as far as I can remember."

Amazingly, Nugent alleged that Archbishop Conti's predecessor, the late Cardinal Winning, knew about his weakness for women and offered his support. The priest said: "He was superb. He said to me: 'Gerry, I am concerned about you.' He was compassionate. He was very helpful.

"When I spoke to him about the issues, he promised: 'This is just between you and I, Gerry'."
The Church has reacted to the scandal by effectively sacking him and attempting to make sure he never works anywhere else as a priest.

But questions are still being asked about how the Church could have remained unaware of such behaviour for so long.

Malcolm Savidge, the Labour MP for Aberdeen North, who was actively involved in representing victims of abuse at the city's Nazareth House Catholic children's home, said the Church should re-examine its policies for dealing with priests such as Father Nugent.

"Trying to look after the reputation of the Church, rather than the welfare of people, simply leads to the Church being brought into even greater disrepute in the longer term," he said.

MSP Margaret Mitchell, the Scottish Conservatives' former justice spokeswoman at Holyrood, said the Church should look at how Nugent was able to have such a different public persona to his private life without senior clerics knowing. "The Church needs to look at the whole issue," she said.

She added it should also examine how Angelika's killer, Peter Tobin, was allowed to be employed even though he had a conviction for the serious sexual assault of two teenagers.

"If Tobin somehow slipped through the net then we need to know why. This whole area needs to be tightened up."

In the case of Nugent, a statement issued by the Catholic Church denied it had been told of any other incident concerning the priest apart from the 1993 allegation.

It said: "The Archdiocese is aware that rumours are circulating in some quarters about Father Nugent's previous sexual conduct.

"We wish to set the record straight on this. During his 40 years of priestly service the Archdiocese has received one anonymous complaint against Father Nugent of inappropriate sexual activity. That complaint was in 1993.

"It was in the form of an anonymous letter and subsequent anonymous phone call alleging a sexual assault. The caller was advised to report the allegation to the police. The caller would not give her name and refused to meet officials of the Archdiocese.

"Despite this lack of detail, the late Cardinal Winning confronted Father Nugent, who admitted an inappropriate consensual sexual encounter.

"Psychological assessment of Father Nugent concluded that this was the result of alcohol dependency, for which Father Nugent accepted treatment and counselling."

The church said as far as it were concerned this was the end of the matter and added it was for Nugent "to decide how he wants to spend his future".

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