Church refuses to comment on reports priest has been suspended after woman's affair claims
Catholic Church officials have refused to confirm or deny reports that a priest at the centre of a storm over allegations he had a sexual relationship with a woman and made her pregnant has been suspended.
Some Mass-goers at St Peter's Cathedral in Belfast last night said they believed Fr Ciaran Dallat (53), the assistant priest in the parish, had been suspended amid an investigation by Church bosses.
The woman who claimed she had an affair with Fr Dallat said she miscarried his child in July 2013 after a five-week pregnancy.
She also said she had showered him with £20,000 worth of gifts.
However, when asked about the alleged suspension, a spokesman for the Diocese of Down and Connor said: "The only statement is that provided earlier."
Earlier, when asked for a response to a Sunday Life story in which a woman claimed to have miscarried after becoming pregnant to Fr Dallat, the Church spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph: "It would be inappropriate to make any further comment."
The spokesman reissued a statement which said: "This is an intensely private and personal matter for both parties and, in particular, for the lady concerned.
"The diocese is treating this matter seriously and will respect and protect the privacy and welfare of all involved.
"The diocese confirms that it will do what is necessary to ensure that the matter is properly addressed.
"This includes making sure that confidentiality is upheld and that no unnecessary hurt or distress is caused. For these reasons it is not appropriate to make any further comment."
Fr Dallat, who is originally from Ballycastle, is the administrator and assistant priest at St Peter's Cathedral just off the Falls Road in west Belfast.
He was previously parish priest in the Sacred Heart parish in north Belfast before moving to become assistant priest at St Peter's on August 22, 2013.
Some worshippers gathered at St Peter's for the regular 6.30pm Sunday Mass yesterday expressed support for the priest.
"I hope he gets back soon," said one, while another said: "It said on the internet he was suspended. I hope he is back soon."
Reacting to the front page news, another Mass-goer said: "We can't believe all we hear".
A woman said: "Does it really matter?"
Another parishioner said he would like to see the priest continue and said the issue raised the whole debate about celibacy and the priesthood.
The man said: "I feel sorry for him in a way. There are two sides to every story."
When asked for his view another man replied: "That's up to Fr Dallat."
A woman said she had been "devastated" to hear of the allegations while many others did not wish to comment.
Yesterday, when the Cathedral Presbytery was contacted for Fr Dallat to respond to the allegations, a man said the priest was "not present" but to contact the diocesan office for any further comment.