A lockdown “sex party” at a Cathedral is being investigated by the Vatican as part of an inquiry regarding a former bishop, it has been reported.
Bishop Robert Byrne resigned as the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle in December. However, in a rare intervention, the Roman Catholic Church is reportedly examining the circumstances of his resignation amid allegations that a sex party was held during a coronavirus lockdown at St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle.
There is no suggestion that Bishop Byrne was either at the alleged party in a priest’s living quarters next to the cathedral, or was aware of it.
However, the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, who is leading the investigation, has been asked “to prepare an in-depth report into the events leading up to Bishop Byrne’s resignation”, according to a letter reported on by The Sunday Times.
The Archbishop said in the letter sent to priests in the diocese that he was asked by the Dicastery for Bishops, a Vatican department that answers directly to the Pope, to conduct the review and that it would look at past and present clergy, volunteers and staff as well as “focus on culture and governance arrangements around the safeguarding process”.
It is highly unusual for the Dicastery for Bishops, which nominates bishops and monitors their performances worldwide, to become involved in such investigations directly.
Father Michael McCoy, who was dean during lockdown, is alleged to have approached a number of worshippers asking if they would like to attend “a party” at the cathedral, a source told the newspaper, which reportedly prompted a number of complaints.
However, Canon McCoy took his own life, aged 57, in April 2021, days after he discovered Northumbria Police’s child and adult protection department was investigating him after a “non-recent” allegation of child sex abuse was made against him.
Last week, the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA) confirmed that it had launched “an official, independent, unscheduled safeguarding audit and safeguarding review” in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
Steve Ashley, its chief executive, added that its independent recommendations would be made public as soon as possible.
Nazir Afzal, OBE, chair, CSSA and a former chief crown prosecutor, said that the review is being supported by the Archbishop of Liverpool.
He added: “Our job is to audit and review safeguarding in Catholic Church bodies. We are now active in a Safeguarding Review in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
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