OSWALDTWISTLE Catholics have spoken of their shock after their former parish priest admitted fathering a child.
Father Peter McDonough, who is profoundly deaf, was based at the town’s St Mary’s RC Church for five years early in his 27-year priesthood.
Fr McDonough, 54, dropped a bombshell on the congregation at a mass for the deaf in Collyhurst, north Manchester, last Sunday.
He revealed he had fathered a four-year-old child, and promptly resigned.
Despite leaving St Mary’s many years ago, he is well remembered in the parish and returned to Oswaldtwistle for the funeral of its long-serving priest Fr Patrick Bourke last March.
Robert and Anne Doolin, of Lord Street, have been attending St Mary’s for four decades and said the news had come out of the blue.
Anne said: "We are really sorry to hear the news. He was a lovely priest, he would talk to everybody and the children loved him. A lot of the young people of the parish would talk to him and were able to use sign language.
"He came to Father Bourke’s funeral and remembered everybody straight away."
Robert said: "When it’s a priest people come down on them very hard. but he’s not the first and won’t be the last. It’s come as a shock, especially for the older generation."
Devout Catholic Joan Murray, 87, also of Lord Street, has been a parishioner for more than 50 years and used to arrange flowers and candles at the church.
She fondly recalled how her late husband had learned sign language thanks to Fr McDonough.
She said: "I found him very nice and he did good work for the deaf. I just cannot believe it happened and I cannot believe it of him. If it is true then I am disappointed."
Vicar General Mark Davies, from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford, said Fr McDonough made the decision after a ‘time of reflection’.
He added: "It was with great sadness that the deaf community and the whole Catholic community in Collyhurst learned of Father Peter’s decision on Sunday.
"Following much reflection and many conversations with his Bishop, Fr Peter McDonough has reached this personal decision."