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Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash
Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash
World News

Priest's dispute leaves elderly parishioner 'traumatised' - church opts not to call police

by Lydia Davies

Catholic church officials have come under scrutiny for their decision not to contact the police about a ‘physical argument’ between a priest and an elderly widow parishioner, despite the woman complaining she had been left with  “flashbacks and near to breakdown”.

Father Michael Brookes, 62, was relieved of his duties at St. Thomas More chapel in Harleston, Norfolk, following a dispute over whether a young boy could bring a puppy to Christmas Eve mass, resulting in what the woman described as an assault.

Brookes allegedly dragged the 77-year-old pensioner into a room in the church and screamed at her after she questioned his decision not to allow the dog in his chapel.

Church authorities defended their choice to not report the incident to the police, stating that because the victim was capable of making her own decisions and not categorised as a vulnerable adult.

The woman expressed her dismay to the Mail Online stating: "There was unbearable pressure on me afterwards not to speak about the assault, which meant there wasn't much support locally, and this has affected my mental health”.

She continued: "I certainly have heard nothing from the church or the Bishop by way of apology.

“I have scarcely slept since the assault and still have flashbacks and feel pretty near to breakdown.

“I was devastated by what happened, especially as a priest is meant to represent Christ to us, and this has shaken my trust in the church”.

A diocese spokesman offered insight into their decision-making process, explained: "Had the victim been a young person or a vulnerable adult and the incident had involved a potential offence, it would have automatically been referred to the police."

He added: "Because the victim was not a young person or vulnerable adult and had the capacity to make her own decisions, she decided she did not want the police involved, as was her right."

The incident has raised questions about the church's handling of such matters and the need for clearer protocols to ensure the safety and well-being of parishioners.

In response to the situation, Peter Collins, the Bishop of East Anglia, ruled that Brookes should “stand down from his priestly ministries” and undergo a “psychological assessment”.

Brookes, who was previously a psychiatric nurse before joining the priesthood, has undergone independent clinical psychological assessment and will be supported by diocesan authorities through the coming period.


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