A priest, the author of a book which alleged that the Catholic Church suffered from a “culture of homosexual bullying”, has been suspended.

Bishop Joseph Toal on Saturday removed Father Matthew Despard from his post at St John Oglivie Church in Blantyre, which is part of the Archdiocese of Motherwell.

The church has brought a case against Father Despard for breaking canon law by writing the book ‘Priesthood in Crisis’.

He wrote the book ‘Priesthood in Crisis’ in 2010, but he self-published it on Amazon’s Kindle store in March in the wake of the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

The book claimed that a powerful ‘gay mafia’ covered up a culture of sexual bullying.

Parishioners on Sunday walked out of a service, voicing opposition to the removal of the priest, which was confirmed by a spokesman for Bishop Toal.

“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,” he said.

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

“Father William Nolan, of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in East Kilbride, has been appointed parish administrator in the interim.”

Friends of Father Despard in April spoke of fears that he may be sacked for publishing the book.

Cardinal O’Brien, 75, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church in late February following accusations by several priests of inappropriate “sexual conduct”.

The allegations surfaced one day after Cardinal O’Brien told the BBC that male priests within the Catholic Church should be able to marry female partners.

The cardinal’s progressive stance on heterosexual matrimony ran counter to his views on LGBT equality.

Last November, Cardinal O’Brien was named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by Stonewall due to his staunch opposition to marriage equality.

In 2012, he stated that same-sex relationships were “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and compared equal marriage to slavery and child abuse.

In March, he admitted that his “sexual conduct” had been “below the standards expected” of him. 

A Vatican inquiry concluded in April – and no further action against Cardinal O’Brien was taken.

Cardinal O’Brien announced his departure from Scotland as part of a period of “spiritual renewal” in May.