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Bishop Robert Byrne (Mazur/

England’s Hexham and Newcastle Diocese is in turmoil after four inquiries, including one by the Vatican, have been launched into what happened there during the tenure of its former bishop, Robert Byrne. Source: The Tablet.

Liverpool Archbishop Malcom McMahon, who has taken over as administrator of Hexham and Newcastle, has been asked by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops to report on what led to the December resignation of Bishop Byrne, citing that the burdens of office were “too great a burden”.

The Vatican review and the other inquiries – by the local Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency, the Charity Commission and the police – have followed the intervention some weeks ago by the papal nuncio, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, after he received several complaints about the diocese and Bishop Byrne.

Among the complaints Archbishop Gugerotti is understood to have received were claims that a sex party was held on cathedral premises during the Covid lockdown.

He was also told of an allegation that a drag artist had performed at the cathedral, also during the lockdown, when the cathedral was closed to the public but priests were still present to celebrate Mass and technicians livestreamed the Masses. There is no suggestion that Bishop Byrne was present.

Apart from the McMahon investigation, the other inquiries are the CSSA’s review into safeguarding in the diocese’s culture and governance, the Charity Commission’s inquiry into a “a serious incident referral”, and a police inquiry into a historic allegation against Bishop Byrne.

Concerns about the situation in Hexham and Newcastle were raised after another police inquiry began, following an historic allegation against Fr Michael McCoy, the dean of the Catholic cathedral of St Mary, in Newcastle. Fr McCoy took his own life in April 2021, days after the police inquiry began. 


Hexham and Newcastle in turmoil after inquiries launched (By Catherine Pepinster, The Tablet)