500 Irish priests 'having regular sex with women'
At least 500 women in Ireland are conducting clandestine affairs with Roman Catholic priests, according to the leader of a support group set up to look after those in forbidden relationships.
An indication of the extent of illicit sexual relationships within the church was given after it was disclosed that Fr Maurice "Mossy" Dillane, 73, had fathered a child with his 31-year-old girlfriend.
Bishop Pat Buckley said an extremely conservative estimate was that one in 10 of the 5,000 Catholic priests in Ireland enjoyed regular sex with women and some even referred to their clerical collar as the bird catcher.
Bishop Buckley has been a long-standing campaigner against compulsory celibacy and points to a recent Irish survey suggesting that 90 per cent of the population thought clergy should be allowed to marry. He also believes that enforced celibacy is an unnatural state that could be to blame for the sexual deviancy that led to the child abuse scandal that erupted in Ireland last year.
"Some priests are in the Jack the lad mould and have several relationships in various parishes. I have heard priests refer to their clerical collar as the bird catcher," Bishop Buckley said.
The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland declined to comment on Bishop Buckley's claims.