Roman Catholic priest Paul Clarke, has been charged with offences relating to the possession of indecent images of children. The 71-year-old is due to appear on bail at Brighton Magistrates Court on 15 October.
Previously residing in Rye, East Sussex, the priest now lives in Manchester. He has been charged with five offences, including possession of an indecent image of a child, possession of prohibited items, and viewing 3,100 "indecent images" of children. Sussex Police confirmed that there is no evidence to suggest the priest made contact with the children in the photos and that none of the images are of children from the local area. The Catholic church of St Anthony of Padua, where Clarke was said to be a parish priest, reported his "sudden resignation" in February.
A spokesperson for Sussex Police said: "Officers had executed a search warrant on Clarke's Rye address, the residential presbytery attached to St Anthony's Church, on 13 November last year, and seized computers and related material." The charged follow an intelligence-led investigation by Sussex Police's Paedophile On-Line Investigation Team (POLIT).
Clarke's charges come amid controversy at the Roman Catholic Church earlier in the week, when an Italian priest justified paedophilia in the clergy by saying that children "who seek affection" tempt adults. Don Gino Flaim's comments led to the Roman Catholic Church removing him from his position and the 75-year-old has been banned from preaching.
Flaim said during a TV interview: "Unfortunately there are children who seek affection because they don't get it at home and then if they find some priest he can even give in [to the temptation]. I understand this." He went on to say that children could be held responsible for paedophilia in "many ways" and that while he could "understand" paedophilia, he couldn't understand the "sickness" of homosexuality.
Last month Pope Francis met with victims of Catholic Church sex abuse and vowed to hold the abusers accountable. Speaking to a gathering of priests and bishops at St Charles Borromeo seminary, he said: "I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry. God weeps."