Married vicar expelled after affair with vulnerable teenager

Married vicar expelled after affair with vulnerable teenager
Published: 2013 November 03 09:49:00 (8495 Views)
A married vicar has been sacked after church bosses heard he had an affair with a vulnerable teenage girl.

Reverend Paul Meier, 47, started the eight-month fling when the girl was just 18 years old and told his wife Saskia he wanted to end their marriage.

The father of two was youth missioner in the deanery of Storrington, West Sussex, at the time and the teenager attended two church youth groups he ran.

Rev Meier and his wife had been friends with the girl's family for six years before the affair began in 2008.

Judge John Lodge, who led a church disciplinary tribunal into the scandal this week, said in a report: "One day he kissed her and a full sexual relationship between them developed.

"Mr Meier told the complainant he wanted to leave Saskia and be with the complainant.

"Saskia did not know of her husband's adultery at that time, but his attention towards the complainant distressed her."

The hearing ruled that Rev Meier's behaviour was ­"inappropriate to the work of a clerk in Holy Orders" after he admitted gross misconduct.

He has been removed from his post and expelled from the Church of England for at least eight years.

The clergyman had been suspended a year ago after the girl complained to church authorities after he took up his new post in Horsmonden, Kent, just a few miles from her home – but parishioners were not told why.

It led some to fear the worst about the wild-haired vicar.

One woman parishioner said: "He's a weird and creepy guy and inclined to do things without asking if you mind – like turning up and expecting food, or that you will look after his children.

"When he was suspended even the parochial church council weren't told what he'd been accused of, but everyone assumed the worst.

"Saskia is a lovely woman and it's a shame she and her children have had to suffer because of his behaviour."

The tribunal blasted Mr Meier's behaviour when the girl began to show signs of distress as their affair continued.

The judge said: "The complainant became mentally disturbed, as evidenced by attempts to self-harm, and she acted bizarrely, e.g. locking the family out of the house one evening.

"Mr Meier admits the complainant self-harmed and that she told him about it.

"Mr Meier says, 'My response (which I can't remember) may not have been very intelligent'." His response was to "carry on his affair with her, despite her obvious mental health problems", the tribunal heard.

The judge added: "Rather than cease his misconduct and provide her with the support she needed and deserved, he allowed things to continue unchanged."

In the middle of 2008 the girl's parents sent her to a psychiatric unit where she began to recover.

But Rev Meier continued to visit her.

He told his wife of the affair and said he wanted to leave her. Mrs Meier told the tribunal: "I advised him to go on a two-week holiday to think things through by himself.

"He came back willing to stay, and our relationship has grown steadily, with a lot of hard work and forgiveness."

The hearing ruled: "If the adultery is with a person within the cleric's area of pastoral responsibility that can be an aggravating factor because issues of vulnerability, exploitation and abuse of position arise."

It said he had abused the trust placed in him by his family, the girl, and her family. But the judge said it was "to his credit that he has sought to rebuild his marriage" and that several people had written in support of him.

Mr Meier was not at the rectory where he lives this week, and was could not be contacted for a comment.

A neighbour said: "Peter always came across as a devoted family man." Another added: "He was always a bit hippyish and unconventional, but was outgoing and people always took to him."

Meier and his family are expected to move to Germany, where Mrs Meier's family are from, and where he plans to teach.

Source - Mirror


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