Belfast Telegraph

Clerics in row over BBC Nolan show child abuse claim

By Rebecca Black

An outspoken Free Presbyterian minister has refuted an accusation by a Catholic priest that he attempted to "sectarianise" the issue of child sex abuse.

Fr Patrick McCafferty, parish priest of Corpus Christi in west Belfast, criticised Rev David McIlveen after he told BBC NI's Nolan Live TV show that "false religion will always breed immorality".

But last night Rev McIlveen told the Belfast Telegraph that he had in no way implied that child abuse only happened within the Catholic Church.

"This is a Biblical position that false religion will breed immorality - that probably is something he might well be taking exception to," he said.

"I didn't say that the Roman Catholic church bred immorality.

"There is no way in which I directly linked the Roman Catholic church with paedophilia. I have to acknowledge there is a problem and I think everyone recognises that within the system. That is a matter for them to sort out, not a matter for me."

Rev McIlveen invited Fr McCafferty, a regular Belfast Telegraph columnist, to contact him directly about his concerns.

He added: "We all have to put our house in order, no matter whether it is the Roman Catholic church, or the Church of England or whomever."

The Free Presbyterian minister had been part of a Nolan Show panel discussing the announcement that Pope Francis will visit Ireland in August, but will not come to Northern Ireland.

Rev McIlveen said he did not want the Pope to come to Northern Ireland. "It's not because of him as an individual, but it is because of who he represents," he told the show.

"He claims to be the vicar of Christ on earth, and we from a Bible believing position see that as a blasphemous claim.

"Basically this is a false religion (Catholicism) ... although I know it is hurtful to some people, but false religion will always breed immorality."

He went on to call for the Pope to condemn clerical child abuse that has taken place in Northern Ireland.

"I think we have a great problem here because the church of Rome teaches there is no salvation outside the church, and that generates pride and it generates a sense of infallibility and the Bible makes it very clear that salvation is of the Lord, it is not in the church, it is in Christ and Christ alone," he said.

Writing in an extensive post on his Facebook page, Fr McCafferty said: "Tonight, on Nolan Live, Free Presbyterian Minister, Reverend David McIlveen, made a grotesquely offensive statement about Catholics, the Catholic Church and child sexual abuse.

"Such a view - and the attempt by him to use an agonisingly painful issue to score cheap sectarian points - is astonishingly blind, hideously insulting and entirely false. It is indicative, not of reality and truth, but of his own warped world view and deeply-ingrained anti-Catholicism."

The west Belfast-based priest went on to challenge Rev McIlveen over the abuse of children at Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast by "born-again Christians, including the Free Presbyterian, Catholic-loathing, William McGrath and his mates".

"For the Reverend David McIlveen to attempt to sectarianise the issue of child sexual abuse in the North of Ireland, is reprehensible and opportunistic bigotry," he added.

"Child abusers are found in every walk of life. They are in all religions and faiths. There are also atheists and agnostics who sexually abuse children. The Catholic Church today is not what it was 20, 30, 40 years ago. There are the strictest safeguarding measures in place to protect children and vulnerable adults."

Belfast Telegraph

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