Catholic bishop quits amid priest child abuse controversy

Bishop John McAreavey
Bishop John McAreavey

Bishop Dr John McAreavey, who has been at the centre of a controversy over his officiating at a paedophile priest’s funeral, has resigned as the Bishop of Dromore.

And in a statement released by his solicitors Arthur J Downey, late this afternoon the bishop of the Co Down-based diocese said his resignation is to take “immediate effect”.

Father Malachy Finnegan

Father Malachy Finnegan

In the simple two-line statement released through the Banbridge solicitors, Dr McAreavey said: “Following media reports which have disturbed and upset many people in the diocese and further afield, I have decided to resign with immediate effect.

“I shall make further comment in due course.”

Last month he met parents from a Co Down primary school, who along with families from three other schools, said they did not want him to officiate at their children’s confirmation because he said requiem mass for Father Malachy Finnegan, a paedophile and former president at St Colman’s College, Newry.

Even before the parents of children from St Patrick’s Primary School, Hilltown, Carrick Primary School, Burren, and St Patrick’s Mayobridge, voiced their concerns, bishop McAreavey admitted he had made “an error of judgement” by officiating at the 2002 funeral of the paedophile teacher whose actions he described as “abhorrent, inexcusable and indefensible”.

The bishop, who has also spoken to a victim of Father Finnegan, said that his decision, made when he was a priest, to say the mass “was the wrong one”.

Allegations about the disgraced teacher and cleric were highlighted in a recent BBC Spotlight programme, although the first allegation against him came to light in 1994.

However, since the programme, three other sex abuse victims are said to have come forward, joining 12 others who made similar claims up to 2016, which the Co Down diocese admitted it was aware of.