ON TUESDAY THE DIOCESE OF DOWN AND CONNOR BURIED RETIRED PARISH PRIEST, FATHER CONLETH BYRNE.
Father Byrne has been living in a monastery since a lady in his parish managed to persuade him to hand over £ 145,000 of parish money to her.
He also gave her £ 45,000 of his own money.
The media report at the time:
Published: 08:35Thursday 11 April 2013 Newsletter
“PARISHIONERS in Loughinisland yesterday told of their “shock and sadness” after their 78-year-old former priest pleaded guilty to fraud earlier this week.
Fr Conleth Byrne, now retired, informed police he paid around £145,000 of parish funds to Marie Hanna from Ballycastle over a 19-month period out of “charity” after she begged him for financial help, a court was told.
He pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position just before his trial was due to begin at Downpatrick Crown Court on Tuesday”
Father Byrne was highly respected and loved in all the parishes he served in.
His actions, so late in life, were totally out of character as far as we know.
Another Down and Connor priest told me yesterday that Father Byrne was always a very big gambler on horses? I had never heard this before.
This priest often witnessed Conleth in the company of another D&C priest, Fr George McLaverty putting large bets on horses at race meetings.
The biggest priest gambler I knew was Fr Fr Vincent McKinley the administrator of St Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast, when I was there from 1978 to 1983. He had a telephone account with a bookie and lost up to £ 2,000 on some Saturdays. £ 2,000 was a lot of money in the late 70s.
£ 2,000 in 1978 is worth £ 10,000 today.
A lot of money for anyone, especially a priest, to lose in one day!
Does any reader have any opinions about priests and big gambling problems?
I’m sure some clerical addiction is connected in some way with celibacy and lonely living?