Priests try to live celibate lives, but are not immune from struggles in many areas of life including sexuality, said Bishop Willie Walsh yesterday.
He was responding to a report that appeared in a tabloid newspaper yesterday concerning a parish priest in his diocese.
The report was an exposé of a priest in Kerry who had posted pictures of himself on a gay website.
The reporter had pretended to be a gay person seeking a relationship with the priest.
The front page of the tabloid carried a picture of the priest wearing only underwear.
Following the appearance of the story yesterday, the priest in question, Fr Michael Hogan issued a statement saying he was deeply ashamed at the revelations in the newspaper concerning him and his private life.
“I acknowledge breaches and indiscretions in relation to my vow of celibacy,” he wrote apologising profoundly for the “hurt and embarrassment caused to the parishioners of Feakle and Killanena-Flagmount, my bishop, fellow priests, to those who know and trust me both within and outside the church community.”
Fr Hogan acknowledged it was serious matter, and requested his bishop, Bishop of Killaloe, Willie Walsh, to grant him time away from ministry.
He also asked for prayers and support for himself “at this most difficult and trying time.”
Bishop Walsh said he fully accepted Fr Michael’s statement. He had accepted his request for time out from ministry.
Paying tribute to Fr Hogan, Bishop Walsh said he was aware that his ministry as a priest had been characterised by a deep sincerity and compassion for people in their struggles.
“I ask that he be shown the compassion and understanding which he has always shown to others in their struggles.”
“We, as priests, are committed to living celibate lives. We are not, however, immune from struggles in many areas of our lives including our sexuality. We take consolation that Jesus, while condemning the sin, did not stand in judgement on the sinner,” added Bishop Walsh.
He said Fr Hogan would continue to have his support and affection and the support and affection of those who have experienced compassion through his priestly ministry down the years.
Yesterday’s ‘Liveline’ radio programme was deluged by callers expressing their compassion for Fr Hogan, and their disgust at the way he had been entrapped by the tabloid newspaper.
One speaker called for a boycott of the paper.
A member of the Feakle pastoral council expressed the high regard in which the priest was held in the local community.
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