THE priest behind a book alleging a culture of sexual bullying within the Catholic Church in Scotland is being threatened with legal action from another serving cleric.

Father Robert Kane, a priest in the Diocese of Motherwell, announced to his congregation his intention to pursue Father Matthew Despard through the courts.

It is understood he was given a standing ovation by parishioners.

Father Despard's book claims sexual misconduct has been rife for decades in junior seminaries where teenagers train for the priesthood.

The self-published Priesthood In Crisis, which came in the wake of the sex scandal and allegations facing shamed Cardinal Keith O'Brien, was recently withdrawn by Amazon.

While he is not named in the book, it is understood Father Kane, who serves St Teresa of Lisieux in Newarthill, believes he is referred to several times. It is understood he denies any wrongdoing.

One source within the Motherwell Diocese said: "My information is Father Kane intends to or has already started legal action. I also understand one or two others are also involved but Father Kane's name is the principal one in any discussions about the book."

Church sources questioned the cost of a defamation action to an individual priest and what damages could be secured from another member of the clergy.

There is also the legal difficulty of Father Kane not being mentioned, while the book is already out of circulation.

In his book, Father Despard, 48, parish priest of St John Ogilvie's in High Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, claims he was the victim of inappropriate approaches as a seminarian and alleges trainee priests who rebuffed the advances of others were bullied.

The diocese has instigated proceedings against Father Despard under canon law, which governs the Catholic Church, with sources claiming "certain observations have been made about Father Despard's conduct and what he's said".

Father Kane is currently in Rome and was unavailable for comment. Father Despard was also unavailable.