I was alerted to Father Timothy Hopkins having all charges dropped by the Criminal Prosecution Service regarding his alleged sexual assault on a young girl at a previous parish. At the time of the police investigation he was parish priest at St Mary’s in Denton and also on the Board of Governors of St Bede’s College in Manchester. Well that kindly act by the CPS must have been met with great gasps of relief by the Salford Diocese and especially St Bede’s College, an institution historically mired with clerical sexual abuse.
This morning I googled Fr Tim and there it was in last Thursday’s edition of the Manchester Evening News. Thank the good lord. The CPS must have realised the police did not have enough on him to win the case in court. However the old bishop, Terry Brain, is a man who knows a thing or two about priestly sexual abuse, decided to ask Tim to step down from his parochial duties at St Mary’s because Tim had had such a stressful time. The Bishop told him to lie low for a few months. Why an innocent man should have to lie low is beyond me but that is the way of the world today. When a priest in our diocese of Elphin was wrongfully accused of similar and was investigated and cleared, he went straight back to his clerical duties.
So I started to wander what Old Tim was doing on this enforced furlough and I looked up the Directory of Priests of the Salford Diocese and guess what? Fr Tim is not there, his name has been deleted, it has vamoosed. Why should they strike him off the register when the man is supposedly innocent, when he is just letting loose his stresses in some comfortable environment.
The MEN went on to say that although stripped of his parish duties, he was still a governor of St Bede’s College in Manchester. Good I thought and I followed my nose and googled the Board of Governors of St Bede’s College in Manchester. Lo and behold, there was a whole new raft of governors. I knew they had been advertising in the Tablet but it was the first time I had seen the new list. From a paltry few clerics who had been holding the fort since April of this year there were now eleven but nowhere on the list could I see Fr Tim.
Besides the florid Quinlan and the old bish, there were the stalwart McMahon and two clerics who had joined in April, Daly and Parkinson and then a strong body of new laymen. Not new exactly because Ellwood, the vice chair and Byrne, had been there before. Byrne having resigned in March following legal advice but obviously having fresh advice which brought him back into the fray again. Lannigan, the accountant, was there, he had never left and there were three new laymen, a chap called Richards and another called Niven. I do not know these two boys but undoubtedly over the next few months we will familiarise ourselves with each other. Last but not least and surprisingly but not that surprisingly, when you look at the overall picture there was Des Coffey’s name insanely smiling at me from the web page. Des, I think went to Xav’s, so what was he doing on Bede’s board, a bit of a comedown for the old alma mater, mind you he was a bit of a teacher in his heyday, but wait a minute I know why he is there, it’s because he is one of the shining lights at Manchester City Football Club where for some years he has been trying to instal some modicum of knowledge and education into admittedly not the sharpest tools in the box, the superstars of tomorrow, the kids at Platt Lane.
Somebody somewhere in the debate about Bede’s future suggested that although it looked like the school was going down the pan and that the diocese would not hinder its fall, the bish would make big bucks by selling off its assets but tendered the notion that there was another way out if Sheikh Mansour, or whatever is the name of the ruling arab at Eastlands, might take over the school. Never a truer word was said, Coffey, who was described to me as a meagre slime-ball by somebody who knows him, completely out of his depth but pretending to be a big cheese, must be the first step in that process and also he only lives round the corner on St Werburgh’s Road and the school will not have to pay any travelling expenses. I also understand that Kearney of Bede’s is taking over the Spanish Department for the start of next year with Pelligrini as his assistant when they both lose their jobs at the end of the season.
So there I was confronted by the names of the brand new board, so I thought I would ring up my mate at Companies House to ask when this new board had been incorporated. He looked up his files and with a knowing smirk he informed me that I was up the pole, there has been no new directors (Board members) appointed since the furore of last March when Lanigan really had his ball and a whole crowd of laymen stepped out and two worthy priests stepped in again.
Now it strikes me that along the way there are a few porkies being told. The Bishop says he has offered Tim a furlough but at the same time he has struck him off his Directory of Priests. The MEN says Tim is still a Governor of St Bede’s College in Manchester but the College on their website say he isn’t but that we do have a new Board of Governors, but Companies House says it doesn’t.
Somehow somebody will have to get to the bottom of this riddle and I suppose it will have to be me. If there is anybody who on reading this can shed some light, step forward but in the end time will surely tell.