Northern Ireland news

Priest honoured by President Michael D Higgins for charity work facing historic sex abuse lawsuit

Fr Bernard Lynch and his husband Billy Desmond

A PRIEST honoured by President Michael D Higgins yesterday for his charity work is facing a lawsuit alleging he sexually abused an American teenager 40 years ago.

Fr Bernard Lynch, who grew up in Ennis, Co Clare, was due to collect his Distinguished Service Award yesterday as news of the accusation broke in the US.

Now a psychotherapist living in London, he became the first Catholic priest in the world to have a civil partnership in 2006 - marrying in 2017 - and has been celebrated for his work supporting LGBT and Aids causes.

He is still a priest but it is understood he lost membership of the Society of African Missions in 2011.

The lawsuit was filed anonymously by a 57-year-old in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday and alleges, as a 16-year-old, the campus chaplain Bernard J. Lynch sexually abused him after Christian Club meetings at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx in 1978 and 1979.

The alleged victim's suit comes after the Child Victims Act became law in August, allowing people abused as children to bring claims that have exceeded the normal statute of limitations.

Fr Lynch (72) was acquitted in Bronx court in 1989 of sexually abusing a different teenager at the same school.

The boy recanted on the courtroom steps and revealed pressure had been put on him to come up with the allegation, leading to the case making international headlines.

He spent a decade volunteering on a New York HIV/AIDS task force and was the only Catholic priest to testify to city council before the body passed LGBT civil rights legislation in 1986.

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