A Covid lockdown “sex party” at a Cathedral is now a subject of a Vatican sanctioned investigation as part of an inquiry regarding a former Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle.
In a rare intervention, the Roman Catholic Church is reportedly examining the circumstances of Bishop Robert Byrne’s resignation in December 2022 amid allegations that a sex party was held during a coronavirus lockdown at St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle priests’ living quarters.
Though there was no suggestion that Bishop Byrne participated in the alleged party or that he was aware of it, the letter to investigate came from the Archbishop of Liverpool, who is leading the indept investigation on the directive from the Pope’s advisers to prepare ‘an in-depth report into the events leading up to Bishop Byrne’s resignation’.
But there is no suggestion that he participated in the alleged party or was aware of it.
A source from the church said: ‘A number of complaints were made by individuals within the diocese after information came to light about a sex party taking place in the priests’ living quarters attached to Newcastle cathedral.’
Though celibacy is not doctrine in the Catholic Church, it has been a law for more than 1,000 years.
Father Byrne replaced father Dermott Donnelly, who was also very popular with another priest, father Michael McCoy, who hanged himself in 2021 days after learning a historical ‘allegation’ against him had been made to the police.
The Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA) confirmed it had started an ‘unscheduled safeguarding audit’ in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
Stephen Ashley, chief executive officer, said: ‘We can confirm that we have started an official, independent, unscheduled safeguarding audit and safeguarding review in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
‘The CSSA’s Quality Assurance Team are leading this work and I will oversee it. We will publish our independent recommendations publicly, as soon as possible, once our team has completed its investigatory work and satisfied all lines of inquiry.’
He added that the scope of the investigation will cover any abuses, safeguarding concerns and the culture of safeguarding in the diocese as a whole.