A British court is about to reach a verdict in a sexual assault case against Father William Finnegan, pastor of St. Clare’s Roman Catholic Church in Fagley, Bradford. According to a report in the Daily Mail, Father Finnegan is accused of forcibly kissing and inappropriately touching a 17-year-old girl last Easter Sunday.
The priest insists that he was not at fault—that in fact, the teenager had initiated the encounter, kissing him on the lips, and he forcefully pushed her away, explaining that her action was inappropriate.
But to buttress his defense, Finnegan’s barrister Jeffrey Hill Baker dropped another bomb: The Catholic priest had been secretly married to a former parishioner in 1999. Hill-Baker told the jury:
‘You may be thinking that he is only human, that Father Bill, as a Catholic priest, has taken a vow of celibacy, condemning himself to a single and lonely life filled with perhaps an underlying sexual frustration because, let’s face it, it is not a natural state for a human to be in.
‘It would be understandable for you to be thinking, “Well, perhaps it just got the best of him with that 17-year-old”.’
But no, that’s not true. Father Finnegan is secretly married to Beverly Dawson, a mother of two who had been his parishioner when he served at a parish in Castleford. The marriage took place while the couple vacationed in Cyprus in September 1999, after her marriage ended in divorce. “Far from being celibate,” the attorney explained, “they enjoyed a full and active sex life.”
“No, you didn’t mishear me,” Hill-Baker assured the stunned jury. “He was so deeply in love that he was prepared to ignore the Catholic Church’s ban on marriage, a secret which has been kept from almost everyone until now…. Whatever the outcome of this case, his ministry as a Catholic priest is well and truly over.”
So this priest had already broken his vow of celibacy, demonstrating a lack of control and a willingness to disregard the rules of his Church. Has he broken his vow once again with a teenager? The jury’s decision may come as early as today.