Priest suspended after affair with 18-year-old

08 November 2013

© NIGEL FREEMAN/CREATIVE COMMONS

Youth groups: Mr Meier began an affair when he was a youth missioiners in Storrington, West Sussex (above) 

Youth groups: Mr Meier began an affair when he was a youth missioiners in Storrington, West Sussex (above) 

A MARRIED priest who had an affair with an 18-year-old woman from his youth group has been suspended from ministry for eight years.

The priest, the Revd Paul Meier, aged 47, admitted misconduct before a disciplinary tribunal of the diocese of Chichester on 24 October. He was suspended from his post at St Margaret's in Horsmonden, Kent, last year.

The affair began in 2008 when Mr Meier was youth missioner in Storrington, West Sussex, where the teenager attended youth groups he ran. Mr Meier and his wife, Saskia, had been friends with the woman's parents for many years.

Judge John Lodge, who led the tribunal, said in a report: "One day he kissed her, and a full sexual relationship between them developed. Mr Meier told the complainant he wanted to leave Saskia and be with the complainant.

"Saskia did not know of her husband's adultery at that time, but his attention towards the complainant distressed her."

The teenager then developed mental-health problems and told Mr Meier she had begun self-harming.

"Rather than cease his misconduct and provide her with the support she needed and deserved, he allowed things to continue unchanged," Judge Lodge said. The woman only began to recover when her parents admitted her to a specialist psychiatric unit.

In a statement the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, said: "The tribunal ordered by way of penalty that Revd Meier be removed from office with immediate effect, and be prohibited from the exercise of any of the functions of his Orders for a period of eight years. It is a matter of great disappointment when clergy fall short of the standards of behaviour which the Church expects; clearly that is what has happened."

Bishop Langstaff said that he regretted how long it had taken for the legal process to be completed since Mr Meier's suspension in October last year.

"In these circumstances," he said, "I continue to have a pastoral responsibility for Paul Meier and his family, and will be in discussion with them about their future."

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