Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Church now unaware of Fr McCullagh's whereabouts

The Derry diocese is unaware of the whereabouts of disgraced priest Fr John J McCullagh, the 'Journal has learned.

Although the local Catholic church aurhorities believe the scandal-hit cleric is staying with family and friends they've admitted that he has gone off the radar since leaving Strabane Parochial House last week.

Speaking to the 'Journal' yesterday, Derry's diocesan spokesman, Fr Michael Canny, confirmed that Fr McCullagh had left Strabane.

He added: "It's understood that he is with family and friends."

Fr Canny said that the diocesan authorities had not been informed of the whereabouts of the 75 year-old cleric and did not know whether or not he had remained in the North.

Strabane Parish Priest, Fr Declan Boland, told the 'Journal' that the elderly priest was "very ill" when he was removed from the Church of the Immaculate Conception parochial house - where he had lived since 1997 - last week following outcry from local parishioners.

The scandal surrounding the cleric, who is oringinally from Co. Tyrone, flared when it was revealed that he paid £12,000 to a woman who alleged she had been sexually abused by the priest from the age of eight over a ten year period, starting in 1979.

He has always denied the allegations.

No duties

It was revealed last week that Fr McCullagh was stripped of all parish duties, including the celebration of Mass in public, although it is understood that he may have since celebrated Mass privately in the local Convent of Mercy.

The Derry diocese has confirmed that "a professional assessment" of the cleric was carried out and that the case was referred to social services after the child abuse allegations first came to light in 1994.

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