Married priest guilty of fondling teen

March 15, 2013 at 10:01 PM
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BRADFORD, England, March 15 (UPI) -- A Roman Catholic priest who admitted during his trial he is secretly married was convicted Friday of molesting a teenage girl in his parish in northern England.

William Finnegan, 59, was told he is likely to get prison time when he is sentenced in April, the Yorkshire Post reported. The Diocese of Leeds removed him permanently from functioning as a priest.

Finnegan was suspended as pastor of St. Mary's Church in Bradford after he was charged last year. A 17-year-old girl said he kissed her and fondled her buttocks after mass on Easter Sunday.

The priest, who said the teenager kissed him, wept as he left Bradford Crown Court after the verdict.

During the trial, Beverley Dawson, who was a member of Finnegan's former parish in Castleford, testified she married him in Cyprus in 1999. She said Finnegan usually came to see her on Sundays after his religious duties were over and would remain with her until Tuesday.

Monsignor John Wilson, administrator of the Leeds diocese, said he felt a "deep sense of shame" at Finnegan's actions and said the priest was guilty of a "double breach of trust."

"This news was as shocking to the officials of the diocese as it was to all those present in court and is another example of the gross breaches of trust committed by William Finnegan," Wilson said of the marriage.

Judge Roger Thomas said he has an "open mind" about the sentence, which could range from community service to imprisonment. Finnegan will have to register as a sex offender.

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