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Maverick Bishop 'Promoting Teen Sex' with Blessing

Irish Independent, Tuesday January 15 2002 by Niamh Hooper

CON TROVERSIAL cleric Pat Buckley yesterday defended his right to give blessings to teenagers as young as 14, after it was reported he performed a ceremony involving a 15-year-old Traveller.

A Travellers' chaplain criticised the rebel priest for "cashing in" and encouraging young people to take part in sexual activities.

But Bishop Buckley countered: "I think if they come to me pregnant they've already done the sex bit." He said he has been performing special blessings for 18 years now and intends to continue doing so.

"I do 200 marriages a year of all kinds, and every now and then I get a pregnant Traveller who has run away.

"To take away their difficulty and their shame I perform a wee blessing and tell them to come back to me when they are 16 to be married."

His ministry, he said, unlike the Catholic Church, is flexible and compassionate.

Bishop Buckley usually charges £200, "depending on how much the couple can afford".

He recently performed a ceremony on a 15-year-old Traveller and her 21-year-old lover at a ceremony at the maverick cleric's church in Larne, Co Antrim.

In a newspaper report yesterday, the father of the young girl said the couple living in Co Wicklow, believed they were married.

The Catholic Church only marries couples aged over 18 in the Dublin diocese, but in the diocese of Down and Connor the age is 16.

Travellers' parish priest, Fr Stephen Monaghan said the estranged bishop was "cashing in" on young Travellers who run away with their lovers.

He said: "The children, some very young, run away with their boyfriends and when they are brought back they say they are in love.

"We have had cases like this before whereby the children actually believe they are legally married and it has taken a lot of effort to unwrangle everything.

"This sort of thing is an absolute disgrace and is only encouraging children to partake in sexual activities - he should be ashamed of himself," he said.