Pop­u­lar priest set to make a re­turn

Par­ish­ioners ex­press their de­light

Rutherglen Reformer - - Front Page - Dou­glas Dickie

Par­ish­ioners at St Bride’s have ex­pressed their de­light at the pos­si­ble re­turn to the parish of Fa­ther Paul Mor­ton.

The Catholic Church con­firmed last week it had com­pleted its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an al­le­ga­tion of his­toric sex abuse made against the priest.

Fa­ther Mor­ton was cleared by the po­lice in April this year af­ter an eight­month in­ves­ti­ga­tion but still faced a fur­ther probe by the church.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter he was cleared, par­ish­ioners launched a pe­ti­tion call­ing for his re­turn. It was even­tu­ally signed by over 2000 peo­ple.

The Re­former un­der­stands that the church in­ves­ti­ga­tion is the sec­ond of three stages.

A source said: “The first is the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion it­self and then there is the church in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“That is now ab­so­lutely fine, but then there is a brief pe­riod of making sure he’s ok to re­turn, mentally.

“There’s no doubt though that a big, big hur­dle has been cleared.”

The news has been wel­comed by church go­ers as well as his fam­ily.

A mes­sage signed by his broth­ers and sis­ters said: “We also wish to of­fer our heart­felt thanks to all his friends in the parish and be­yond who from day one have never doubted his in­no­cence and sought jus­tice on his be­half. We now await Paul’s re­turn to his parish of St Bride’s.”

In an ad­di­tional state­ment to the Re­former, they added: “The fam­ily would like to add that Fa­ther Paul’s re­turn to min­istry is ab­so­lute proof and vin­di­ca­tion of his to­tal in­no­cence of any wrong­do­ing.

“Fa­ther Paul is a man of great spir­i­tual and per­sonal in­tegrity and his re­turn to St Bride’s will be wel­comed by his par­ish­ioners, the wider Catholic Church and his many friends in other faith­based com­mu­ni­ties in the Cam­bus­lang area.”

One parish­ioner placed a Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tion with a pic­ture of Fa­ther Mor­ton on it on the church’s Christ­mas tree be­fore the evening ser­vice on De­cem­ber 24.

And the Face­bok group, Bring Back Fr Paul Mor­ton to St Bride’s Cam­bus­lang, posted a mes­sage say­ing: “Happy Christ­mas Fa­ther Paul Mor­ton. God Bless you to­day and in the days ahead as we await your re­turn with hope and joy in our hearts.”

Church goer Kieran Din­woodie told the Re­former: “The con­gre­ga­tion is ex­cited, re­lieved and hope­ful. I think ‘hope­ful’ is a very im­por­tant word here.

“We are hope­ful we can get our priest back and let him come back to his parish and his com­mu­nity be­cause that’s where he be­longs.

“While it’s been a hard time for ev­ery­one there’s a real need to fo­cus on heal­ing now.”

Bishop Joseph Toal, of the Dio­cese of Mother­well, con­firmed the canon­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion had un­cov­ered no ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing.

He added: “I ac­knowl­edge that this has been a long, painful time for Fa­ther Mor­ton per­son­ally – fac­ing such al­le­ga­tions has been a heavy cross to carry.

“The par­ish­ioners of St Bride’s, his fam­ily and friends, and in­deed the Dioce­san com­mu­nity have found it dif­fi­cult, and I thank you for the prayers and sup­port of­fered for Fa­ther Mor­ton. A good num­ber of peo­ple have writ­ten to, or con­tacted me, through the pe­riod of Fa­ther Mor­ton’s ab­sence from St Bride’s and I ac­knowl­edge here th­ese ex­pres­sions of care and con­cern for your parish priest and friend. It is ben­e­fi­cial for me as Bishop to lis­ten to the voice of the lay faith­ful in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions.

“It was Fa­ther Mor­ton’s 30th an­niver­sary as a priest ear­lier this year and I would like to take this op­por­tu­nity to ac­knowl­edge the ex­cel­lent ser­vice he has given to the Dio­cese of Mother­well, and to pray with him and those who have ben­e­fited from his priest­hood that the years ahead may be richly blessed.”

Christ­mas

wish A dec­o­ra­tion left on the Christ­mas tree at St Bride’s fol­low­ing news of Fa­ther Mor­ton (main) be­ing cleared by the church

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