Bishop Donal McKeown has said that he and his fellow bishops are being portrayed as "twisted, incompetent old men, well aware of evil actions among some of their colleagues, but saying nothing in order to protect their power".

The bishop made the comments while addressing the St Joseph's Young Priest Society in a sermon on Sunday.

McKeown said that priests were now being portrayed as "incompetent idiots" like Father Ted, to being "sexually frustrated clergy where child abuse was just par for the course."

He said that people viewed the church as not only home of abuse but the source and cause of it.

McKeown released a copy of his sermon to the press yesterday.

The bishop went on to say that the church was finding it increasingly difficult to encourage young people to enter the priesthood. 

McKeown said this was "because of celibacy, clergy and religious are all potential child abusers, some just about keeping their instincts under control." 

McKeown has been critical of the churches response to clerical child abuse.

The bishop has criticized Cardinal Sean Brady for the "disastrous effects of his inaction" against child abuse, and particularly Fr Brendan Smyth.

McKeown said that the Church must acknowledge that many people genuinely felt "terribly hurt" by the churches in actions and the arrogance portrayed by priests and bishops.