AN investigation into a parish priest suspended for his memoirs alleging a culture of homosexual bullying within the church will also deal with his accusations.

Father Matthew Despard was suspended amid dramatic scenes at the weekend after a penal judicial process was launched, a full eight months after his book Priesthood In Crisis was put on sale.

However, church sources have said that, as well as investigating Father Despard's conduct in releasing the book and its impact on serving clergy, any probe would have to examine what is alleged within it.

It is also understood that Father Despard was aware as far back as last Tuesday that Motherwell's acting bishop Joseph Toal would act to have him removed from St John Ogilvie Church in Blantyre on Saturday.

The priest, who was accompanied by his lawyer when Bishop Toal arrived at the South Lanarkshire church at the weekend, has also been accused of refusing to meet with the hierarchy to discuss the investigation and suspension.

The 48-year-old priest published his book in the aftermath of the resignation of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who was stood down after admitting to decades of sexual encounters with other Catholic clergy.

In the book Father Despard claims he was approached inappropriately as a seminarian and said trainee priests who spurned advances of others were bullied. He also complained of having his claims ignored.

The book has since been ­withdrawn by Amazon, with some fellow priests threatening legal action against their colleague.

On Saturday, just before he was due to say mass, a statement was read by Bishop Toal on the suspension of Father Despard, sparking a walkout by many parishioners and scenes described as a near-riot.

Even senior figures within the church have said the intervention of Bishop Toal was cack-handed.

However, one added: "This investigation will look at the damage Matthew Despard has caused to members of the clergy and parishioners. I don't think it means he'll be laicised but he may have to offer a public apology.

"Running alongside that there would have to be an investigation into what the book alleges and how much of what Despard says about clergy past and present is true. Even his detractors don't rubbish it all.

"I guess Toal's been under ­pressure from members of the clergy over Matthew Despard but the approach is what's created the stir here. Anyone who makes such allegations about their employer would be suspended. The same thing has happened here, apart from the drama."

One parishioner who contacted The Herald said: "This was not a case of a mass walkout in support of Father Despard. Many of those who left on Sunday did so because of the uproar. There have also been many unfamiliar faces in the church over the weekend.

"I've read his book. He makes a lot of good points. I believe a lot of it. But how he's gone about this has been totally wrong and he's created a situation where there's lots of innuendo about people within the parish. He also refused several ­meetings with the bishop and manufactured the situation on Saturday."

It is also understood Father Despard has been offered alternative accommodation while the investigation is completed.

A spokesman for Bishop Toal said: "Since there is a canonical case in progress at the present time, Bishop Toal felt it was appropriate to remove Father Matthew Despard from parish ministry, until the judicial process has run its course.

"This action does not prejudge the case in any way."