A PRIEST who sued his former lover for the rights to a Co Donegal cottage has been given a ‘leave of absence’ from his ministry in Co Mayo.
Fr Gabriel Rosbotham admitted he was gay during the Donegal Circuit Court civil action against his former lover Hugo Crawford, an ex-Franciscan friar.
Originally from Donegal, Fr Rosbotham had been serving as a curate in Ballina since 1997 where he was a popular priest.
Between 1997 and 2002 he spent one or two nights at Rose Cottage in Letterbarrow with Mr Crawford.
Mr Crawford had fought the priest’s claim to a share of the house. However on Friday a judge awarded a 27 per cent share in it to Fr Rosbotham.
In a letter to parishioners at Masses last night, the Bishop of Killala – based in Ballina – said he was shocked to read about the case and that the priest had been given time to reflect.
“News of the recent court case which involved Father Gabriel Rosbotham came as a complete shock to me, to the priests of the diocese and I am sure to all of you,” said Bishop John Fleming in the letter.
“This news has caused deep distress and I want you to know that all of you are in my thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time.
“For the past seventeen years Father Gabriel has ministered in this diocese, in your parishes, and he has received great appreciation for his pastoral care, his ability to relate to the young, his effectiveness as a preacher and, in particular, for his singing at Mass.
“Since the court case ended I have met with Father Gabriel and he has decided to take some time to himself, away from the diocese, to reflect on his life, on the commitments he made and on his ministry, as well as to think about the future. I know that you will join with me in praying for him, as he seeks God’s guidance for the way forward.
“I am deeply aware of the sadness of very many people in this community, as well as the great shock felt by so many at the revelations made during the court case. The Church and, in particular, the Christian community of which each of us is a member, is the place where we are joined to Christ, our Lord, and where we support one another in good times and in bad. It is also the place where we find forgiveness, hope, encouragement and healing. I hope and pray during these coming weeks and months that the Lord will be with all of us to renew our own faith, and the faith and trust of this community.”