William “Father Bill” Finnegan, a 59-year-old Roman Catholic priest who served at Saint Clare’s RC Church in Bradford, London, has been accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.
But that’s hardly the interesting part.
During his court appearance on Thursday, William dropped a bombshell in front of the jury: Even though he’s bound by a vow of celibacy, he revealed that he’s been married since 1999, reports The Guardian.
The priest defended himself by stating that he couldn’t have sexually assaulted the teenage woman because he was enjoying a healthy sex life with his secret wife. Finnegan’s lawyer, Jeremy Hill-Baker, countered the prosecutor’s accusations with these statements:
You may be thinking that he is only human, that Father Bill, as a Catholic priest, has taken a vow of celibacy, condemning himself to a single and lonely life filled with perhaps an underlying sexual frustration because … it is not a natural state for a human to be in. It would be understandable for you to be thinking, ‘Well, perhaps it just got the best of him with that 17-year-old.’ But he told them they would hear evidence from Finnegan and his wife, Beverley Dawson. No, you didn’t mishear me. His wife. He and Beverley Dawson secretly married abroad in September 1999.
The lawyer also gave a statement on his client’s secret marriage and the probable outcome of this case:
So deeply in love was he that he was prepared to ignore the Catholic Church’s ban on marriage, a secret which has been kept from almost everyone until now. Whatever the outcome of this case, his ministry as a Catholic priest is well and truly over.
Finnegan is charged with touching the girl’s bottom and forceably kissing her last Easter. William told the courtroom that it was the girl who kissed him:
She tiptoed towards me, placed her hands on my waist and kissed me on the lips. I said that’s not to happen. I’m afraid I used quite a lot of force.
The prosecutor in the case, Richard Walters, responded:
Rather than tell us the truth, you would rather brand that young girl as a liar.
As for the secret marriage, William wed divorcee Beverley Dawson in a civil ceremony on the Greek island of Corfu. They met after Dawson attended Finnegan’s former church service in Castleford, West Yorkshire. Dawson told the court that she did not live with Finnegan, but they regularly saw each other and go on holiday trips together. She is a mother of two.
The trial is ongoing.
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