One in ten of the 5000 Catholic priests in Ireland are involved in clandestine affairs with women, says a rebel Bishop whose organization supports priests in forbidden relationships
According to Bishop Pat Buckley, at least 500 priests enjoyed regular sex with women and some even referred to their clerical collar as the "bird catcher". Studies had shown that 80 per cent of priests had broken their vows of celibacy, he added.
Touted as Ireland's rebel bishop, Buckley runs the Bethany organization, which he set up to support those in love affairs with the clergy.
Bishop Buckley was sidelined by the Catholic Church in the mid-1980s when he pursued his own ministry for those who felt alienated by the traditional church.
Bishop Buckley said up to 40 per cent of the Catholic clergy in Ireland were sexually active, including practicing homosexuals.
His claims come at a time when Ireland's Catholic education institutions have come under fire for sexual and physical abuse cases, the Sydney Herald reported.
The 2600-page report by Ireland's Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse found that for decades rape was "endemic" in more than 250 Irish Catholic care institutions from the 1930s to the 1990s, and that the church protected pedophiles in its ranks from arrest.
"A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from," it said.
The commission, which was set up to probe child abuse cases, failed to recommend any criminal prosecutions. Victims' groups were absolutely enraged.
"We were treated as criminals as children when we were sent to these places and even now there were Garda officers on call to arrest us if we tried to get in. It was an absolute disgrace," said John Kelly of the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse group, Soca.
Irish Soca urged Pope Benedict to hold a Vatican inquiry into the role of Catholic religious orders in Ireland's orphanages and industrial schools.