PARENTS in Pomeroy won’t allow their children to take part in a First Holy Communion ceremony if a priest embroiled in an indecent image scandal is in attendance, the MAIL understands.
Parish priest Father Martin McVeigh this week remained at the centre of a media storm after “indecent” pictures appeared on a projector to parents during a presentation at St Mary’s Primary School in the village.
On Tuesday night around 26 parents, a number of teachers, plus an eight year-old child, gathered for the First Communion meeting at the school with Father McVeigh.
During the course of the gathering parents were left “horrified and distracted” after a reported 16 obscene images of men appeared during a PowerPoint presentation after the priest inserted a memory stick into a connected computer.
According to a statement given to the MAIL on behalf of the parents, the memory stick was removed before the priest, who has since denied knowing how the images came to be on the device, left the room “visibly shaken and flustered”.
He returned a short time later and finished the presentation, before asking that children consider giving some of their First Confession money to the Church.
Following a number of complaints to the CPO of the Parish, CCMS, CPO of Armagh Diocese, no action has been taken against Father McVeigh, who has presided over the parish for some years.
Parents again met at a private meeting on Monday night to discuss the incident, and say they are still waiting to hear back from the Church on the current status of Father McVeigh’s position and whether he will preside over the school’s First Holy Communion ceremony, due to take place in three weeks.
“If we find that he will be conducting the service or even in attendance, we won’t allow our children to take part,” one parent told the MAIL.
“It is absolutely disgraceful that Armagh have not suspended him from his duties after what took place last week. We have been left in the dark over this matter but we certainly will not be stopping until we get answers.”
In a joint-up statement the group of parents have now accused the Church of “doing nothing and hoping that we will go away”.
“The questions that remain unanswered are the fact that Fr McVeigh is still saying Mass and has not been suspended pending an investigation.
“In any other responsible organisation this would have been the first action,” they said.
“The parents are enraged that Fr McVeigh has been entrusted with the pastoral care of their children however, he has given no explanation for why he left the room for 20 minutes after the incident or no apology to the offended child, parents or teachers.
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“The good name of the school is being tarnished with a matter that should be dealt with by the Church not through the media.
“We feel that the situation is not being treated with the gravitas that it warrants and we as parents feel that the Church are doing nothing and hoping that we will go away,” concluded the statement.
Another parishioner, who sent a letter into the MAIL, stated that until “some clarity is brought to this whole scenario” they would be withholding their family’s weekly donation to the Church, while another local woman, who did not want to be named, said the priest “should not be judged” until the Churches investigation is at an end.
In a statement on Monday, Cardinal Brady, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said “inappropriate imagery was inadvertently shown by a priest at the beginning of a Powerpoint presentation,”
He added: “The priest has stated that he had no knowledge of the offending imagery. The archdiocese immediately sought the advice of the PSNI who indicated that, on the basis of the evidence available, no crime had been committed.
“The priest is co-operating with an investigation of the matter on the part of the archdiocese.”
The story has grabbed headlines all over the world, making the news as far as America and Australia.
The allegations have also dominated social networking sites, news sites and blogs, and the MAIL has viewed a number of derogatory web posts written in response to the story including several distasteful photoshopped pictures of the parish priest.
The MAIL attempted to contact Father McVeigh, who has continued to carry out morning Mass duties at the Church of Assumption in Pomeroy since the scandal broke, but no-one at the Parochial House answered or returned our calls.