Parish priest told to 'get out of town' amid abuse scandal involving deceased predecessor

A parish priest at the County Down in Northern Ireland told parishioners during Sunday Mass that he had received and reported an abusive and threatening letter to authorities.

(REUTERS/Gregorio Borgia)A sexual abuse scandal involving a priest who targeted young boys has rocked a parish in Northern Ireland.

Father Charles Byrne of the Clonduff parish did not exactly clarify what was in the letter but he described the contents as being "abusive." The letter also called for him to "get out of town" for he had apparently failed to properly handle an abuse scandal involving his predecessor, Father Malachy Finnegan.

Byrne also told his parishioners that there had been a "very hurtful" social media post that defamed his character. He has referred this matter to a legal counsel.

During the 1980s, Finnegan, who was once the parish priest of Clonduff, allegedly sexually and physically abused over a dozen young boys from the St. Colman's College at the parochial house for decades. He had taught in the school and was later on assigned to be the school's president.

Finnegan reportedly used to bring students into his bedroom at the parochial house when overnights were still allowed. Not one of the reported abuses, however, resulted in a prosecution. Clerics were then not permited to use the parochial house for overnight stays when the abuse reports surfaced.

Byrne, who became the parish priest in late 2017, on the other hand, has not used the parochial house after members of the community refused to set foot in the building. When they learned that Finnegan had abused the children on the site, parishioners stopped attending community meetings and other activities.

Finnegan died in 2002. Father John McAreavey, who became the appointed Bishop of Dromore in 1999, officiated his Requiem Mass even though he knew of the allegations.

McAreavey recently resigned from his post as bishop after calls from the community. He apologized for saying the Mass at Finnegan's funeral.

"It's not only me who doesn't trust what he's been doing for the Diocese," Sean Faloon, who admitted that Finnegan had abused him when he was 10, told reporters. "The whole Diocese now has a large amount of distrust."