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WHY IS PERVERT STILL A PRIEST?; Vital question Catholic church has to answer in new scandal.

Byline: ANNA SMITH

THE leader of Scotland's Catholics, Cardinal Thomas Winning, himself pledged to his flock that he would root out pervert priests.

Sick individuals preying on youngsters would have no hiding place.

The naming and shaming of perverts was to be tackled with a confidential "shop-a-priest" hotline.

This was the Catholic church's way of taking a firm grip on child protection in the wake of a catalogue of sex scandals in recent years.

Yet the church chose to ignore all of that when dealing with a priest who had sickening sexual images on his computer in the chapel house - despite fears that the sex scenes may have involved adolescent boys.

The church did not call in the police even after viewing the depraved images.

When a Daily Record investigation uncovered the facts behind the sex scandal, we asked the church:

What exactly did Bishop Devine do when he was informed that Father Jim Nicol was downloading porn?

Were the images involving any adolescent or under-age boys?

Were police called in and what happened?

Why is Nicol still serving as a priest in a parish?

The matter was dealt with by Bishop Devine, the local Bishop of Motherwell.

Bishop Devine admitted that they knew about the porn scandal, but insisted that Nicol, of St Anthony's parish in Rutherglen, was fit to serve as a priest.

A Catholic Press Office statement said: "When it was discovered that Father Nicol had downloaded pornographic images to his computer, his Bishop immediately removed him fom his post.

"The police were informed and they decided not to pursue the matter. Father Nicol was sent for professional assessment to Maryland.

"The assessment concluded that there were issues in his life which needed to be addressed, and counselling could be undertaken either in Maryland or in Scotland.

"On returning to Scotland, he began a course of counselling which continues.

"At no time was there any indication given to anyone in the church that these images involved under-age persons.

"The professional advice given to the church was that Father Nicol was no threat or danger to anyone."

In 1996, Cardinal Winning described child sex abuse as a "dreadful disease" and promised that all complaints would go directly to the authorities.

Special child care officers were appointed to each diocese and a national co-ordinator brought in to advise on handling each allegation.

The move followed a string of child sex cases involving priests amid claims that the Catholic hierarchy had covered up the abuse for more than 20 years.

One of the worst cases involved Father Desmond Lynagh who brutally abused young trainee priests at Blairs College, near Aberdeen.

Lynagh left Blairs College in 1977 after the allegations against him. He was given therapy and continued as a priest. The church hierarchy knew about the scandal, yet did not report it to the police.

He was unmasked after one of the boys broke his 17-year silence and Lynagh was finally jailed for three years.

It was revealed the church had paid pounds 42,000 in compensation to one of his victims.

It emerged that the church had a secret fund to pay off victims of pervert priests.

The Record revealed that Cardinal Winning was named as a shareholder in an offshore account in the Channel Islands-based insurance company Catholic National Mutual, set up in 1979.

Earlier this year, Father John Fitzimmons claimed that the late Cardinal Gordon Gray was among the high-ranking clergy who failed to take action against Lynagh.

Father Fitzimmons, of St. John Bosco's Church in Erskine, said: "We thought the church would deal with it, but even that didn't happen."

Another priest, Canon Joseph Terry, 72, was jailed for six years for indecency against girls aged seven to 16 between 1963 and 1971 while he was a parish priest for Ballachulish and Kinlochleven.

Father Adrian McLeish, who abused a string of boys then boasted about it on the Internet, was jailed for six years in 1996.

He abused four young boys in his Durham parish over six years and hoarded the country's biggest ever child porn collection.

Children at Nazareth houses at Cardonald, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen were subjected to abuse by nuns during the 1960s and 1970s.

One nun, Sister Alfonso, was found guilty of cruelty and put on probation.

In September, pervert Father Michael Hill was released after three and a half years of a five year sentence for nine attacks on children.

The church was again accused of a cover-up after allowing evil pervert Hill to continue to work as apriest.

Lesser scandals also hit the church. In 1996, Roddy Wright, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, vanished from Oban with divorced mother-of-three Kathleen MacPhee.

While the hierarchy were coping with that, it emerged that Bishop Roddy also had fathered a love child 15 years earlier in a liason with a woman in his parish.

One of his young priests at Oban Cathedral Father Sean McAuley, later booked into a sex and alcohol addiction clinic in the US.

Parishoners had complained that Father McAuley, a close friend of Princess Diana's mum Frances Shand-Kydd, was involved openly in a relationship with a youth who he described as his 19-year-old nephew.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Should Father Nicol be allowed to continue as

a Parish Priest ?

YES: 0901 560 7824

NO: 0901 560 7825Calls cost 10p
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 24, 2000
Words:890
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