Eviction fears raised 
for priest’s parents

Bishop Joseph Toal is due to visit St Bernadette's in Motherwell this weekend.

Bishop Joseph Toal is due to visit St Bernadette's in Motherwell this weekend.

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The elderly parents of a Roman Catholic priest at the centre of legal action could be evicted from their home, it was claimed this week.

It’s the latest twist in a saga that began when Fr Matthew Despard was suspended after writing a book making allegations of sexual misconduct within the church.

Supporters of the priest say his parents, Dickie and Cathie, could be forced out of the North Motherwell home they have lived in for many years if the latest court action brought against him is successful.

They are angry that Bishop Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell, is due to visit St Bernadette’s Church, where the couple are well-respected parishioners, on Sunday, just a day before the legal action is raised at Hamilton Sheriff Court.

Fr Despard was parish priest at St John Ogilvie’s in High Blantyre when he was suspended from duties in 2013. Last year he was forced to leave the parish house there after losing a court action brought by Motherwell Diocese.

However, a church ruling that he had made damaging accusations against priests and lay people in his book was overturned by a court in Rome, and a support group is calling for his re-instatement as parish priest in High Blantyre.

The latest court action is said to be to recover previous legal costs. The house in question, a former council property, is in Fr Despard’s name.

A spokesman for the support group said the bishop’s planned visit to St Bernadette’s on Sunday is “very insensitive” in the circumstances.

One parishioner said: “The Despards are well respected in the parish and Dickie looked after the church hall for years.

“If Bishop Toal has a meet and greet with parishioners after services as he usually does there could be some awkward questions asked.”

A spokesman for the 
Diocese of Motherwell refused to discuss the possibility of 
the couple being evicted, saying:

“As the judicial case has not concluded, it would not be appropriate to comment on it. Similarly, any actions by officers acting on behalf of the Sheriff Court would be a matter entirely for the court.”