Irish Daily Mail

I am HIV positive but other priests contracted it too

- EXCLUSIVE By Sandra Murphy

CONTROVERS­IAL cleric Pat Buckley last night said the fact that his HIV-positive status was revealed in court had come as a shock.

However, the self-appointed bishop made the extraordin­ary claim that he’s not the only priest with the illness.

‘I’m not the only priest with HIV,’ he said, as he told how he had to phone close friends after the case to inform them that he has the disease. ‘I know other priests who have it and they say they got it in the Missions.’

The remarks about his health were made by the judge in the Belfast case when handing down a suspended sentence to the selfappoin­ted bishop for officiatin­g at several sham marriages.

The 61-year-old former Catholic priest told the Irish Daily Mail that he was coming to terms with the fact that the illness that he had lived with for 12 years had been exposed with little warning.

Insisting that it was a private medical matter, the openly gay minister said he regretted that Mr Justice Mark Horner had put it in the public domain.

‘I found out in December 2001. Of course, it was shocking and I didn’t expect it,’ he said after the trial at Laganside Court, Belfast.

‘But it has always been a private matter and my close friends and

‘It has always been a private matter’

family would know about it. I go to hospital in Belfast every three months and I’m fine. Nobody dies of HIV any more.

‘The drugs are great and it no longer leads to Aids. But to be honest, I did not expect the public to hear about it like what happened today. I was straight on my phone ringing whoever didn’t know as soon as I got out of court. I wanted them to hear it from me, not the news. I really didn’t expect the issue to be forced into the public like this, and I would have preferred to plan it.’

However, Mr Buckley last night said he hoped that the announceme­nt will help lift the taboo of an illness, which was once seen as a death sentence. ‘I am no saint, and am as much a sinner as the next man but I have faith in God and do believe these things can be turned into blessings,’ he said.

‘I am in a relationsh­ip, and have always been honest with him about my illness. Our civil partnershi­p anniversar­y will be four years in March.’

Reflecting on the impact on his reputation after being handed a three-and-a-half-year jail term, which was suspended for three years, he said it was ‘a sad day’.

‘I’m 61 now. I’ve never been in trouble with the law before. I did get the speeding thing that everyone gets, and did a training course and am a far better driver since, but overall, my family is so sad for me today – both on my HIV positive status being broadcast and on the conviction,’ he said. The former priest, from Princes Gardens, Larne, Co. Antrim, had pleaded guilty last week to 14 charges of conspiracy to defraud, while five others – dating from 2004 to 2009 – were not proceeded with. However, he said the 14 sham marriages he was associated with accounted for less than 1 per cent of the 2,500 ‘weddings’ he had officiated over the last 30 years.

Mr Justice Horner told the defrocked priest he was an ‘important cog in the wheel of the conspiracy’. ‘What you did was wrong. You committed a series of serious crimes which you did for a financial reward,’ he said.

The Belfast Crown Court judge told independen­t bishop Buckley: ‘As a consequenc­e, you have now lost your hard-won reputation. You are now a convicted criminal.

‘You have lost face and standing in the community. Nothing can disguise the fact that you, as someone who professed to be a man of God and who should have been setting an example to others of how to behave, let yourself down, let your ministry down and betrayed the trust of all those to whom you should have been providing leadership and guidance.

‘The loss of your reputation is bound to have hit you hard.’

Buckley was to have gone on trial last week for a second time accused of involvemen­t in the sham marriages after a jury failed to reach verdicts on any of the charges. Following his guilty pleas, prosecutio­n QC Richard Weir said it was accepted the bishop was not the instigator or originator, and those in charge could have done so without his help, although his involvemen­t, ‘made it cheaper and earlier and much less likely to be open to detection’.

Having been ordained bishop by an independen­t church, he left the official Catholic Church and is no longer treated as a bishop by those in communion with Rome.

His home at The Oratory, Larne, still belongs to the Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor, but Buckley refused to leave the property following his suspension from the priesthood in 1986 by Bishop Cahal Daly.

Buckley, who is from Tullamore, Co. Offaly, studied at Clonliffe College and St John’s College in

‘My family is so sad for me today’

Waterford. He was ordained a Roman Catholic diocesan priest in 1976 in Waterford, and subsequent­ly ordained a bishop in 1998. Buckley was elected to Larne Borough Council in 1989 as an independen­t, a seat he lost in 1993.

He has overseen the marriages of thousands of people, including Catholic divorcees or gay couples. On October 10, 1999, he publicly confirmed his homosexual­ity and entered into a civil partnershi­p with his Filipino boyfriend Eduardo Yango on March 2, 2010.

He has claimed more than 40 per cent of Catholic clergy are gay.

Buckley is actively involved in the gay and lesbian community in both Ireland and Britain, offering same-sex blessings and spiritual seminars.

He also wrote a book revealing the secret lives of many priests’ ‘wives’ who live as housekeepe­rs and for whom he runs a self-help and counsellin­g service.

This is not the only case in which Bishop Buckley has been mentioned. Earlier this year, similar charges were not proceeded against him, and in two other cases, he was mentioned as allegedly having played a role, although not charged, with involvemen­t in those sham marriages.

Last month a solicitor named Ho Ling Mo, 42, from Oakway Park in Belfast, was sentenced to a year’s jail following a year on supervised licensed parole for her involvemen­t in the sham marriage racket. Her legal practice, based in University Street, south Belfast, has since been closed down.

The sentence i mposed was made to run consecutiv­ely with an earlier jail term of 21 months, imposed last July, after being convicted of a total of ten charges including involvemen­t in money laundering.

In a separate court case at Antrim Crown Court, in June, Buckley was mentioned in the cases of three sham marriages between Bangladesh­i men and women from Portugal. Indeed the man said to have been behind that scam, 43-year- old chef Wahidul Islam, of Tates Avenue, Belfast, was convicted and later jailed in his absence after he failed to show for the last day of his trial.

 ??  ?? Shocked: Pat Buckley leaves court after sham marriages conviction
Shocked: Pat Buckley leaves court after sham marriages conviction

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