A priest’s secret marriage details came to light when Catholic priest William Finnegan stood trial in court for having allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl. The priest’s wife testified on William Finnegan’s behalf that she and her priest-husband “had a sexual relationship” and that they “went on holidays together,” reported Mail Online on March 15, 2013.
In her testimony, the priest’s wife said that even though she and her husband, William Finnegan, were not able to steadily live together, he would visit her each Sunday after he gave church services and stay with her until he had to go back to work on Tuesday.
The priest’s defense attorney, Jeremy Hill-Baker, dropped the news of the Catholic priest’s secret marriage to Beverley Dawson when 59-year-old William Finnegan who is a priest at St. Clare’s Roman Catholic Church in Fagley, Bradford, England, stood trial in court for allegedly having touched the bottom and forcefully kissed a 17-year-old girl on Easter Sunday last year.
William Finnegan’s attorney told the judge and the jury that Father Bill, as he was known to his parishioners, married Beverly Dawson, a mother of two, in Cyprus in September 1999. After her previous marriage had broken down, Beverly Dawson and the priest fell in love and married. Only their most trusted friends and family knew about the priest’s secret marriage.
“Mr Hill-Baker told the jury: ‘No, you didn’t mishear me.’ He said: ‘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’.”
During the trial, William Finnegan denied having touched the girl, and the priest’s wife said in court that her husband called her on Easter Sunday and told her that he had been kissed by the teenage girl and that he was shocked about the girl’s action.
Despite the surprise revelation of the priest’s secret marriage during trial and his wife’s testimony, William Finnegan was found guilty by jurors at Bradford Crown Court and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 11.
In response to the guilty verdict, the priest’s supporters who were sitting in the public gallery (where the 17-year-old girl was also sitting) reacted with “gasps and cries.”
The priest’s sentence could range from immediate imprisonment to “other arrangements of a community nature” according to Bradford Judge Roger Thomas QC. Judge Thomas also said that, “This case, albeit sexual assault of the least type, does have to it factors of another type.” Apart from the guilty verdict by the jury in regard to the sexual assault, Judge Thomas appears to be struggling more with the priest’s secret marriage.
“Sensationally he reveled during the trial he broke his vows by marrying one of his parishioners in a civil ceremony abroad and then continued to do his job. Far from being a celibate priest, Finnegan was enjoying an active sex life with his wife, the jury heard.”
While Judge Thomas seems to condone the priest’s secret marriage more than the “sexual assault of the least type,” the words spoken by William Finnegan’s defense attorney appear to have touched the judge’s and the public’s mind.
“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, let’s face it, it is not a natural state for a human to be in.”
It will be interesting to see whether the judge will consider the priest’s secret 13-year marriage a social offense or a natural human defense.