A priest who was suspended for exposing alleged sexual bullying within the Catholic Church in Scotland has received the support of his St John Ogilvie's Church congregation, many of whom walked out of mass to protest his punishment, The Herald reports.
According to the report, parishioners signed a petition calling for the return of Father Matthew Despard, who made the allegations in a memoir called Priesthood in Crisis. In the book, Despard reportedly claims that senior church authorities ignored complaints about abuse and bullying and that during his time as seminarian, other student priests made "inappropriate approaches" toward him.
Parishioners also vented their disapproval of Despard's suspension from his High Blantyre parish to a bishop and a priest who tried to say mass, with one woman informing the two that the people "are the church," not the hierarchy. The congregation then walked out as the bishop tried to resume the service.
A spokesperson for Bishop Toal indicated that Despard was subject to an unfolding judicial process, the BBC says.
The Scotsman says Despard fell afoul of church authorities after publishing his memoir on Amazon earlier in the year, not long after Britain's then most senior Catholic leader, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, resigned in the midst of accusations of "inappropriate acts" with priests.