Gay priest ‘relieved’ at dropping of abuse case

DUBLIN (IRELAND) [Dublin, Ireland]

September 10, 2021

By Helen Bruce

A gay Irish priest, honoured by President Michael D. Higgins for his work on LGBT rights, is said to be ‘deeply relieved’ a lawsuit alleging he had abused a US teen has been dropped.

Fr Bernárd J. Lynch, from Clare and now living in London, had said the allegation of abuse dating back 40 years are ‘misplaced and malicious’. 

On Thursday, an organisation supporting reform of the Catholic Church, We Are Church Ireland, said there had been a ‘complete vindication’ of Fr Lynch. ‘We are delighted to learn that the defamatory allegations made once again against Fr Bernárd Lynch have turned out to be without basis or even a scintilla of evidence to support them,’ said spokesman Colm Holmes.

‘These false allegations were made in 2019 just as Fr Bernárd Lynch was receiving a Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad from President Michael D. Higgins at the Áras – designed to cause maximum embarrassment.’ He said that Fr Lynch was ‘absolutely thrilled’ by the withdrawal of the allegation, which he understood had been done before the case reached court.

‘This has been hanging over him for the best part of two years,’ Mr Holmes added. Fr Lynch was accused by a man who filed papers anonymously with the Manhattan Supreme Court in New York.

The plaintiff claimed that when he was about 16 years old, he was sexually abused by Fr Lynch after Christian Club meetings at Mount St Michael School in the Bronx. As a result of the alleged abuse, he claimed he had suffered and continues to suffer ‘great pain of mind and body’.

The accuser sought damages from the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the school and several other religious orders. Fr Lynch was not listed as a defendant. Fr Lynch told the Irish Times at the time that he was ‘deeply disturbed’ by the accusation, which he said is false, adding at the time: ‘They only want money.’

It was the second time the married cleric has been accused of an offence with a minor. In 2012, he told the Irish Times that he had been falsely accused of abusing a separate boy, who was 14 at the time of the alleged assault, and that the case ended in April 1989 when his accuser, then 19, refused to testify.

Bernard-Lynch with President Michael D Higgins and husband Billy Desmond
Bernard-Lynch with President Michael D Higgins and husband Billy Desmond

Fr Lynch became the first serving Catholic priest in the world to have a civil partnership in 2006. Fr Lynch went on to marry partner Billy Desmond in January 2017.