St Mary's Catholic Church
St Mary's Catholic Church Wikimedia Commons

A Catholic priest has been suspended and faces criminal charges after it was revealed that he entered a civil partnership with a Muslim man to help him stay in the UK.

Fr Donald Minchew, who had converted from the Anglican Church, was suspended after admitting to entering a civil partnershipin 2008 with Pakistani immigrant Mustajab Hussain who, he said, was desperate to work in Britain.

Hussain, who already has a wife and works as director for Croydon firm Beds4U, faces an investigation and risks deportation after the sham marriage to Minchew was revealed by the Mail on Sunday.

He told the paper: "He helped me. That's it. There is nothing more."

Minchew faces prosecution for assisting unlawful immigration.

The 66-year-old widower, who has four children, admitted he had not told the Catholic Church that he was in a civil partnership.

"That is an omission on my part and I will have to pay the price for it," he said.

"You are talking to a ruined man. I am finished. End of story."

He claims he helped Hussain because he was a long-standing friend. Their fathers had served together in the Second World War.

Fr Michael Scanlon, who worked alongside Minchew at St Mary's Catholic Church in Croydon, told IBTimes UK he had received a letter of resignation from the priest.

He said: "We were surprised this happened before he became a Catholic priest. We weren't aware of it all."

Scanlon added: "We are not happy about same-sex unions and that will continue to be our position. But we would be ready and willing to help people who have gone down that road. As a pastoral priest we offer a hand of friendship to one and all from whatever background."

Monsignor Keith Newton, who oversees Anglican vicars who convert to Catholicism, said: "He [Minchew] deeply regrets his action. He apologises unreservedly for any harm or embarrassment he has caused."

Minchew first hit the headlines in 2012 when he criticised the Church of England and defected with about 70 members his congregation from St Michael and All Angels to St Mary's Catholic Church.