A day after a local priest accused the Palm Beach Diocese of kicking him out for reporting sexual misconduct, church officials fired back and called the priest a liar.
Father John Gallagher said officials from the Palm Beach Diocese strongly suggested he take a leave of absence after he reported a visiting priest had shown child pornography to a 14-year-old boy after Mass.
But Church officials said they did no such thing, and said Gallagher's accusations are "a complete misrepresentation."
"Father Gallagher is blatantly lying and is in need of professional assistance as well as our prayers and mercy," the diocese said in a statement Tuesday.
Gallagher said he contacted the Sheriff's Office about the Rev. Jose Palimattom's interactions with the boy, and church officials were angry at him for not coming to them first.
"[The Church's] response was, 'We used to put people like this on the plane,'" Gallagher said. "I said, 'that's fine, but the Sheriff's Office is on its way.' They asked how much they knew."
Palimattom's Jan. 2015 arrest report says the boy's father is the one who called police. While Gallagher is not named in the report, the sheriff's office later wrote a letter praising Gallagher for his help with the investigation into Palimattom.
Palimattom, a visiting priest from India, was a two-year resident at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in West Palm Beach. He pleaded guilty in April and was sentenced to six months in jail. He was also required to file as a sex offender in Palm Beach County.
Gallagher said after Palimattom's arrest he was demoted and eventually forced out of the Holy Name church. He also said officials changed the locks on his parochial house while he was in the hospital for surgery and for heart problems, which he says were caused by the stress of the situation.
Diocese spokeswoman Dianne Laubert disputed all of those allegations and said Gallagher requested a medical leave.
"He was not named as pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Church for a number of reasons not related to the incident involving Father Palimattom. He was given a new assignment with all the reasons explained to him."
After he felt he was being edged out of the Church, Gallagher reached out to officials in the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to write a letter on his behalf.
In a July 20 letter to Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger praised Gallagher's willingness to cooperate and said he helped stop other potential crimes against children in the parish.
"Over the last 44 years of law enforcement experience, I have witnessed other events where church staff was not forthright in providing information to our investigators and actually impeded our investigation by their lack of cooperation," he wrote. "Due to Father Gallagher's cooperation, the case was swiftly resolved and the opportunity for additional crimes was diminished."
Gauger added that a detective commented on Gallagher's cooperation, saying in the past she experienced a "lack of cooperation and dismissive attitude" while investigating sex abuse cases within the diocese.
Diocese officials said they acted in a swift and cooperative manner with the Sheriff's Office after learning about the sexual misconduct.
Gallagher gave an interview with an Irish newspaper, The Irish Independent, which published a story on Monday. The Palm Beach Diocese issued a statement Monday disputing the story.
The Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach, headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, encompasses Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee counties. According to the diocese, there are 280,000 parishioners in 53 parishes.