THE church which gay bishop Pat Buckley used for mixed marriages is to be sold off because of an oustanding £137,000 debt.
The controversial cleric has failed to pay back money loaned to him by millionaire Arthur McIntyre, owner and founder of Jollye's pet food chain.
Mr McIntyre and his wife, Margaret, have slapped a writ on Bishop Buckley, demanding that he repays the money, an interest-free loan set up three years ago to bankroll his project to reopen the Church of Ireland in Omeath, Co Louth, to carry out masses and weddings.
The cash was provided by Crimish Ltd, whose directors were Mr and Mrs McIntyre and Bishop Buckley. The McIntyres claim that Buckley defaulted on the payments. A judge in Northern Ireland, it was reported yesterday, has already ordered a full return of the money.
Margaret McIntyre said that Crimish Ltd will soon be wound up and the church will be sold off.
"The whole point of us giving him the interest-free loan was that it would be paid back and this was to be done by money he got from performing wedding services. But there wasn't enough weddings at the church simply because it was in the Republic and the State did not recognise them as legitimate marriages," she said.
Bishop Buckley denies that the church is closed for good. "The building is still open and I have conducted a wedding there within the last week."
Asked if he intended to contest the legal actions, he said: "Well the McIntyres have over £40 million. I'm in the red so I am not in the position to fight people with that kind of money."
Bishop Buckley said that the closing of the church will not affect his person
Sunday Mirror, Aug 6, 2000 by JOHN CASSIDY
CONTROVERSIAL gay Bishop Pat Buckley is at the centre of a legal wrangle over a £110,000 outstanding debt.
The Irish Sunday Mirror can reveal that the rebel cleric has been slapped with a writ demanding he repay the money which was part of a loan to help buy and refurbish his new church in Omeath, Co Louth.
The case is being taken by two former friends who helped bankroll the ambitious project three years ago.
But millionaire pet company owner Arthur McIntyre and his wife Margaret had a recent fall-out with Bishop Pat.
Now the husband and wife are seeking the return of the interest- free loan which had been given to a company set up to oversee the running of St Andrew's church close to the border.
Last night 48-year-old Bishop Pat said he was disappointed about the legal battle which was now heading to the courts.
And he added: "If the loan has to be repaid in full, then the church would have to close."
Yesterday, as he prepared to marry another happy couple, Bishop Pat spoke openly about the legal tussle which could see his church crumble around him.
He revealed the writ arrived at his home in Larne, Co Antrim, the day his one-time friends were due to go on holidays to America.
It named him as a defendant in the action along with Crimish Ltd, the company overseeing the running of the church.
The company directors are listed as Bishop Pat, Arthur McIntrye, the 62-year-old owner and founder of the pounds 30 million Jollye's pet store chain, and his 42-year-old wife Margaret McIntyre.
The writ, issued on July 7 this year, states the couple were claiming for:
"Damages for loss and damage sustained by them by reason of Bishop Buckley's negligence and breach of contract entered into with the Arthur and Margaret McIntyre for the establishment and management of a church at Omeath and the conduct of wedding services.
"Damages for loss and damage sustained by them by reason of the Bishop Buckley's negligent misrepresentation and, or, missstatement in and about the management of a church at Omeath and the conduct of wedding services.
"Repayment by Crimish Ltd of the sum of pounds 110,658.64p being the balance due on a loan made by them to Crimish Ltd for the purchase of property comprising the said church and lands at Omeath.
"Damages for loss and damage sustained by them by reason of Crimish Ltd's breach of contract in and about the repayment of a loan made by the plaintiffs to Crimish Ltd for the purchase of property comprising the said church and lands at Omeath.
"And the plaintiffs claim interest at such rate and for such period as the Court may deem fit."
The writ warns Bishop Buckley that he has 21 days from service of the document to enter a defence at the High Court in Belfast.
"Take notice that in default of your doing so the plaintiffs may proceed and judgment may be given in your absence," it finally warns.
Bishop Pat revealed that the three had been friends for seven years, meeting shortly after they married in a registry office in 1993.
"They worked with me on the project to renovate the church.
"This was where they wanted to have a church wedding. Arthur also wanted to be buried in the grounds of the church.
"We were parishioners and friends. I have helped both of them through counselling and even acted as a counsellor for the 400 staff of Jollyes.
"Arthur has been married three times and Mags twice."
Bishop Pat said yesterday that he was not surprised when he received the writ.
"It wasn't a complete shock. I have been in contact with their solicitors over this matter prior to the writ arriving.
"I was told that I was not keeping to my part of the agreement over the repayment of the loan.
"But I have not defaulted on the payments."
And Bishop Pat said he was still hopeful that he could sort out the rift before it lands in front of a judge.
"I don't want to go to court. I have entered an appearance in response to the writ and I will give my side to the story.
"I don't believe they will win the court action but I have to be prepared for the worst.
"If they are allowed to reclaim the interest free loan, I really can't see the church surviving. It would have to close.
"But if that happens, so be it. Since this disagreement, I have cut back on the number of advance wedding bookings.
"But it is still business as usual. I haven't given up hope that this can be resolved amicably.
"I will still be saying Mass in the church at 5pm today," added Bishop Buckley.
The High Court writ comes just two months after Margaret McIntyre demanded the gay bishop hand back two exquisite croziers.
One is cast in brass while the other is a Celtic silver ebony creation.
She bought the the brass crozier a year ago on a shopping trip to London's Regent Street with Bishop Pat.
And Mrs McIntyre bought the second crozier a month later from an abbot.
However, the gay bishop is refusing to give them back, claiming they were gifts.
Last night, Arthur and Margaret McIntyre were unavailable for comment at their plush Rockport Lodge home in Cushendun, Co Antrim, a former retreat for nuns.
It is understood they are still holidaying in America.
We contacted the couple's solicitors, McIldowies of Belfast, for a comment on Friday, but no one was available.
Bishop Pat, who was ordained a priest 24 years ago, has been dogged through most of his clerical life by controversy.
However, last year he stunned his followers when he publicly admitted: "I'm gay."
He blamed sexual abuse as a child on him becoming a homosexual.
"I made my decision after considering Christ's words that the truth shall set you free.
"And I have had a sense that when you carry such a secret, you are not absolutely free."
He revealed: "From the age of five or six until I was about eight living in a rural part of Ireland, I was sexually abused by a young man who was in his early 20s.
"That sexual abuse was fairly persistent and constant. It involved the use of knives and threats and that was a very difficult and painful time for me.
"People expert in the world in this area, say that we get our gay tendency in one of two ways - either through our genes or through early experiences.
"When I hit puberty at 13 or 14, and became aware of sexuality, I realised that I had certain leanings.
"It was a time of crisis for me and I could not cope with it very well. I was brought to my family doctor but I couldn't bring myself to talk about my feelings to him."
After a pilgrimage week to the shrine of Lourdes in France, Bishop Buckley decided to 'come out of the closet'.
"I have been carrying this burden all my life. I also wanted to talk publicly because of my ministry.
"It is to the marginalised, to divorced people, to women. I have felt at times slightly less than honest talking to some of these groups, especially the gay groups.'
"I don't think I have ever been hypocritical but if I have been, then all danger of that will be taken away by me sharing with everybody the fact I am gay."
But he admitted he was still single and "looking for love". Weeks later he turned up at Belfast's Gay Oscars bash.
Months before the bombshell confession, the first woman to be ordained a priest in Ireland walked out of his church.
Mother Frances Meigh, a 67-year-old divorcee hermit who was ordained by Bishop Buckley, quit after she walked into St Andrew's church to find a TV crew filming a satirical shown in the church.
She claimed the Hole In The Wall Gang show would make a "mockery of everything I stand for".
But Bishop Pat dismissed her outburst, saying: "She can be very temperamental."
Buckley's title of bishop is not recognised by the Catholic Church hierarchy
He was elevated to the position of bishop several years ago by Tridentine Archbishop Michael Cox.
But in the eyes of the Vatican, Buckley is still only a priest.
The rebel cleric still fears that the Catholic Church will excommunicate him for marrying divorcees at his churches in Larne and Omeath, which goes against Canon Law.
Any move to throw him out of the church would have to be ratified by Pope John Paull II.
The Pope would have to sign a declaration ordering Bishop Buckley to be struck off from saying mass, holding confessions and marrying couples.