I AM compelled to rise to the defence of Bishop Toal after reading Colette Douglas Home's column ("Revolt in the pews sums up challenge faced by church", The Herald, November 19).

There is so much I could say about the case of Father Matthew Despard but this is not the forum in which to air such views. In suspending Fr Despard from official ministry pending an investigation into his allegations, the church is doing no more and no less than any other profession or organisation when someone makes serious allegations in print against one or more of his or her colleagues.

Fr Despard ought to have been suspended from the very moment those allegations were made. The fact that he chose to make them in the way that he did, publishing them in an ebook, is surely evidence enough that we are dealing with someone who is not acting judiciously.

It is a great pity that it is an outsider, Bishop Toal, who has had to deal with this, since this is a mess not of his own making. It is grossly unfair of Colette Douglas Home to pillory this good bishop who, for the last few months has tried, alas unsuccessfully, to resolve this issue, mainly due to a lack of co-operation on the part of Fr Despard. It is in the best interests of everyone involved in this whole sorry saga, Fr Despard included, that action has now been taken to either prove his allegations and vindicate him or disprove them and restore the good name of the many priests whose reputations he has sullied in his book.

As a Catholic priest and colleague of Fr Despard in the Diocese of Motherwell, I can only lament that things have been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that mass-going Catholics in what was once an extremely well-run and active parish have been duped into believing that the interruption of the sacred liturgy, whilst their parish priest looks on from the sidelines, is justifiable. It is probably not the seismic moment interpreted by Colette Douglas Home, but it is certainly a sad reflection on Fr Despard's pastoral care of his parish.

Fr James A Grant,

Holy Family Parish,

Mossend, Bellshill.