An investigation by the Vatican is underway into claims that a “sex party” took place at a Newcastle cathedral during lockdown.
In what The Sunday Times described as “a highly unusual move”, the Vatican has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Robert Byrne’s resignation as the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle in December.
But there is “no suggestion the bishop attended the alleged party, inside a property adjoining St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle, during the Covid lockdown, or was aware of it”, the paper added.
According to The Northern Echo, it’s “alleged that during lockdown Father Michael McCoy, who was the dean at the time, asked worshippers if they would like to attend a ‘sex party’ in a property adjoining St Mary’s Cathedral in Newcastle City Centre”.
A source told The Sunday Times: “A number of complaints were made by individuals within the diocese after information came to light about a sex party taking place in the priests’ living quarters attached to Newcastle Cathedral.” A second source told the paper: “The cathedral had become a laughing stock.”
Citing a coroner’s report last May, The Northern Echo added that McCoy “took his own life” in April 2021, “days after learning that police were investigating a ‘historic allegation’ against him”.
The allegations came to light when The Sunday Times reported on a letter sent to priests within the diocese by the Archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon. He said he had been asked by the Vatican to prepare “an in-depth report into the events leading up to Bishop Byrne’s resignation”.
The archbishop said in the letter that he was asked by the Dicastery for Bishops, a Vatican department that reports directly to the Pope, to conduct the review and that it would look at past and present clergy, volunteers and staff as well as “focus on culture and governance arrangements around the safeguarding process”.
When Byrne stepped down as Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle in December, according to The Sunday Times, he told worshippers he had been reflecting: “What does the Lord require of me?”, and decided the role had become “too great a burden”.
A Hexham and Newcastle diocese spokesman said: “The Diocese had previously invited the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA) to conduct a review following the resignation of Bishop Byrne in December 2022.
“Diocesan Trustees have met and have had contact with the chief executive and representatives of the CSSA this week. They have discussed how the review, originally scheduled to happen in May 2023, will be undertaken and how the findings will be published. The review is now underway.”