A Catholic priest has been suspended from his post after the church received a complaint that he harassed a former altar boy.
Father Frank King, 50, who has been serving as the parish priest at St Aidan’s Church in Wishaw, was reproached by the Bishop of Motherwell after Tony Moore, now 29, alleged he received a number of inappropriate messages via social media.
Moore claimed that Father King “bombarded” him with messages requesting him to go out for dinner or meet at his house. He also claimed that the priest had tried to phone him several times and that the messages were “inappropriate and provocative”.
Moore, who now works as a hairdresser, recently met with the Bishop to formally complain about Father King’s behaviour. During the meeting, the Bishop was shown evidence of the messages and has taken immediate action.
King has been officially warned about his inappropriate use of social media and relieved of his duties pending investigation. His parishioners have been informed of developments.
Moore initially met the priest at a restaurant in May 2014, after which King added him as a friend on Facebook.
He said: “When he first added me on Facebook, I wasn’t really sure who he was. He sent me a couple of messages just asking how I was, which I replied to just to be polite.
“But then I got a message from him asking me to come to his house to have a drink. I thought it was a bit strange and I didn’t reply.
“I then couldn’t believe it when I looked through his Facebook photos and saw he was a priest. I hadn’t heard anything from him for more than a year but then last month he started messaging me again.
“He was saying things like, ‘We need to get together’, ‘Why don’t you come to mine?’ and ‘Don’t be shy’.
“They were inappropriate and provocative. It continued for three days. I was getting messages at all times of the day and night.
“I found it really creepy and I couldn’t believe I was being pestered like this by a priest. I had given absolutely no indication that I was interested in meeting up with him. It made me feel really uncomfortable and I went to my mum and told her what had been happening.”
Moore confirmed that the bishop had spoken to Father King about the allegations and had explained that the priest was “very upset”.
“[The Bishop] said Father King had said he thought he remembered me from when I was an altar boy and that’s why he had added me on Facebook. I have no memory of him.
“The Bishop then said he had told him the messages were inappropriate and that it would not be happening again. I don’t know if he has done anything wrong legally but it is certainly morally wrong.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Motherwell said: “This matter was not referred to the police. The priest concerned was asked to exercise care when using social media.”
Meanwhile, over the weekend it has emerged that another priest – Father Tom Shields – has also been suspended following allegations of historic abuse.
Shields, the priest at the church of St John the Baptist, was ordered to step down from his role in light of the “serious” charges levelled against him. The Catholic Church has confirmed it has asked the police to fully investigate the allegations.