A priest suspended for alleging a culture of homosexual bullying within the Catholic Church in Scotland has lost a legal challenge over access to his parish house.

Parishioners in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, have been told an interdict was granted at Hamilton Sheriff Court forbidding Father Matthew Despard, who has been suspended since last November, from preventing his replacement gaining access to the presbytery.

Father Despard, 48, had refused to leave the presbytery house of St John Ogilvie, High Blantyre, having changed the locks.

He continued to live in the property against the will of the interim Bishop Of Motherwell Joseph Toal. His temporary replacement, the Reverend William Nolan, has been unable to get into the property, leading to the court action against him.

Father Despard, who has also faced threats of civil action by fellow priests who believe they have been defamed in his book, Priesthood In Crisis, has since gone to Spain, according to a bulletin to parishioners in the area.

It is unclear for how long he will remain abroad.

He had been offered alternative accommodation outwith the parish while the investigation was under way but rejected the offer.

Parishioners have also been warned that unless keys are handed over to the presbytery they will force entry into the house.

Father Despard was suspended in November, eight months after his book was put on sale on the Amazon internet site.

The book has since been ­withdrawn by Amazon, following the legal threats by priests.