Parishioners at Bradford RC church told of diocese shame over sex assault priest (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Parishioners at Bradford RC church told of diocese shame over sex assault priest
Parishioners of the shamed Catholic priest found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage girl packed into their Fagley church yesterday to hear of the diocese’s own “sorrow and regret” over William Finnegan’s actions.
Sunday morning mass was full as worshippers arrived in cars and on foot for the 10am service at St Clare’s RC Church, where Monsignor John Wilson, who is administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds, read out a frank statement.
In the statement, he spoke of his sympathy for Finnegan’s 17-year-old victim expressing his “deep sense of shame” about the priest, who was convicted after a five-day trial at Bradford Crown Court on Friday. Finnegan, aged 59, was found guilty by a jury of assaulting the girl by kissing her forcefully on the mouth and touching her bottom.
Before yesterday’s church service began, some of the congregation hurried heads-down into St Clare’s, not wanting to comment to the Telegraph & Argus about their former priest, known to them as ‘Father Bill’, and the shock revelation during his trial that he had married secretly a decade ago despite taking a vow of celibacy.
One elderly woman, who did speak but did not want to be named, said: “He was the kindest man. I’d known him since he was ordained. We are all only human and we all make mistakes. Don't say a bad word about him.”
During the morning mass, Mgr Wilson told parishioners that Finnegan would never return to being a priest and that the news he was married had been just as “shocking” to diocese officials as it was to everyone else in the courtroom. He said it was another example of his “gross breaches of trust.” Mgr Wilson told the T&A that the weekend masses had been well attended as usual .
He said: “The response we have had from this vibrant community is that they are grateful for the support the Diocese is giving them.”
Finnegan, now on conditional bail, will be sentenced on April 11 but has been warned he could face “immediate imprisonment.”