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A CATHOLIC bishop knew one of his priests had fathered a child - but allowed him to carry on in his role for FOUR YEARS. Peter McDonough, 54, stunned the congregation at St Patrick's Church, in Collyhurst, when he told them he had a son - as revealed in the M.E.N. last month.
Catholic priests must remain celibate unless they are converts from another religion. But in a letter which he sent to friends who were not at the service, he reveals he told Salford Diocese Bishop Terence Brain about the child in 2005. Yet he was allowed to continue at St Patrick's Church. The Bishop has confirmed the claims. The letter claims the Bishop was happy to let Mr McDonough remain in the priesthood as long as he stayed celibate. But Mr McDonough says in the end it was his decision to resign and ‘take responsibility’ for his son. Bishop Brain confirmed that he knew about Mr McDonough’s child four years ago. But on Friday he said he did not want to comment on why he let him carry on as a priest. 'Difficult journey' Mr McDonough, who is deaf and served the region’s deaf community, confessed to his congregation from the pulpit. Using sign language he told parishioners he had fathered a four-year-old boy and as a result would be leaving the priesthood. His letter begins with the former priest apologising and revealing that he has ‘very sad news to share’ before stating that he has ‘resigned from the Salford Diocese’. He adds: “It has been a long and difficult journey for me in the last few years. Over four years ago I informed the bishop that I have a son. He was very understanding and supportive and said that I could continue in the priesthood as long as I remained a celibate.” Mr McDonough, who spent the last 27 years serving the region’s deaf Catholic community, continues: “The mother of my son has given me full support in this.” He says that the boy ‘is growing fast and is continually asking questions, which has made things very difficult for us. I also need to think of his needs and rights’. Mr McDonough, who parishioners said will be sadly missed, reveals he sought therapy to help him deal with the situation. 'Difficult' He says: “I have been attending a course of therapy, spiritual direction as well as a lot of discussions, discernments and prayers and I have reached a decision where I feel it is right for me to become proactive and become a full time father and to protect the good name of the Church.” Mr McDonough will stay in his role as secretary of the Catholic Deaf Association. But Bishop Brain’s decision to have let him continue as a priest was criticised by Patricia McKeever, editor of the Catholic Truth newsletter. She said: “Father Peter McDonough has been living a lie for the past four years with the full support of his Bishop. "The Bishop’s advice to this priest, to continue in the priesthood, is at odds with Catholic emphasis on the centrality of the family.” But ward councillor John Flanagan, who is a Catholic, backed the Bishop. He said: “The whole ethos of the Catholic church is that if you do something wrong you can change that. And there are vicars who have families who have converted. “To criticise the Bishop is wrong. He has accepted that Fr McDonough broke his vows but has told him he can go on if he does not break them again. I think that was right.”