The Association of Catholic Priests has described the treatment of a priest in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore as "inappropriate, unreasonable and unacceptable".
It alleges that Richard Geoghegan, who served in Carrick-on-Suir and South Tipperary, "reluctantly signed" his laicisation papers confirming his departure as he "felt unsupported" by Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan.
This has left the 54-year-old "without an income, accommodation and dependent on a derisory financial settlement", the association said.
The group alleges that Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan withdrew Mr Geoghegan's documentation which allowed him to officiate Mass without informing him, and later asked him to move out of his diocese house.
Controversy arose earlier this week after Dungarvan native Mr Geoghegan had confirmed his departure from the priesthood.
He tweeted that he had been "officially dismissed by Rome", bringing an end to 28 years of service. He further alleged that Bishop Cullinan "was happy to dispense" with him.
I entered seminary in 1987 at the age of 19.— Richard Quinn Geoghegan🇮🇪 🥂🇺🇦🌻 (@RichardGeogheg9) January 16, 2022
I was ordained in 1993 at the age of 25:
On 7/1/22 I was officially dismissed by ROME.
On Friday 14/01/22 my Bishop was happy to dispense me.
I’m a good man.
And he talks about the shortage of vocations. 🙄
However, Bishop Cullinan told theMr Geoghegan left the priesthood "of his own accord", and petitioned Pope Francis for laicisation from the priesthood last March.
"At the meeting last March, Richard attended the diocesan offices, in the company of a chosen colleague, to sign the request to the Holy Father for laicisation. On December 15, 2021, Pope Francis granted Richard Geoghegan’s petition, meaning that he is no longer a priest."
This has been disputed by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) which says it accompanied him to a meeting with Bishop Cullinan, as it had been contacted by a different priest in the diocese who was concerned Mr Geoghegan was being "pushed out of the priesthood".
This was "even though there was no allegation or official complaint against" Mr Geoghegan.
The group said it read the news of Mr Geoghegan's departure with "dismay and sadness" and said it had supported him previously in the diocese.
A statement from the ACP said: "During the meeting, Richard expressed his wish to remain a priest of the diocese. Bishop Cullinan responded that he knew that Richard did not want that. The Bishop added that he felt it best for Richard if he left the priesthood. In response, Richard said that he never felt supported by the bishop since he came into the diocese."
According to the ACP, Bishop Cullinan "outlined all the reasons why he felt Richard should leave.
It further claims that, subsequently, Mr Geoghegan discovered the minutes of their meeting "were completely distorted" and only included some of what the bishop had said and nothing of what he or the ACP member had said.
It added: "During 2021, Bishop Cullinan withdrew Richard's 'celebret' – a card that acknowledges a priest is in good standing with his bishop – which meant that Richard could no longer say Mass publicly or officiate as a priest.
"Because he felt unsupported and ‘not wanted’ by Bishop Cullinan, Richard reluctantly signed the laicisation papers."
Now, the ACP contends that "Fr Richard Geoghegan’s treatment is inappropriate, unreasonable and unacceptable".
Mr Geoghegan declined to comment when contacted earlier this week. Bishop Cullinan has been contacted for a response to the ACP statement.