Disgraced priest flouts his clothing ban
Published 25/03/2010 | 06:04
Disgraced Fr John McCullagh continues to flout a ban on him wearing clerical garb laid down by Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty.
The revelations have shocked parishioners in the Strabane area, with many stating that the first time they became aware of allegations against him was when they read it in this newspaper.
Last week the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Fr McCullagh had paid £12,000 compensation to a woman who claimed he had sexually abused her as a child over a 10-year period.
Since the mid-1990s he had been forbidden from celebrating Mass, wearing clerical garb or having contact with schools.
One parishioner, who wishes to remain anonymous, confirmed she had seen Fr McCullagh on many occasions including earlier this year in Strabane still dressed with his priest’s collar.
She said: “There is little else being talked about in Strabane except Fr McCullagh. People here had no idea about him and when I heard I had to keep asking was it really Fr John that the story was about. I mean he just went about the town as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
“He certainly gave no indication that there was any suspicions hanging over him. He dressed like a priest and talked to people like he was their priest and went in and out of shops and about his business like he was due all the respect his collar was supposed to give him.”
A parishioner who attends Mass at Camus in Strabane where Fr McCullagh’s address is listed in the 2010 Diocesan Directory said he was betrayed by the Church he looked up to. The man said: “I have been coming here for seven o’clock Mass every night for longer than I care to remember and what has sickened and saddened me most is that no one thought to tell us that Fr McCullagh had this cloud over him. Now, I don’t know if he is guilty or not but we had the right to look out for our children, make sure they were safe and not in danger.
“That was the least the Bishop owed us. Did he not think he had a duty of care to the children of Strabane, did they not matter?”
The Belfast Telegraph posed a number of questions to Bishop Hegarty yesterday about Fr John McCullagh, including the issue of him still wearing clerical garb.
Media liaison spokesman Fr Michael Canny confirmed he had passed the questions to the Bishop, but there was no immediate response from Dr Hegarty.