A County Meath nun has quit the Catholic Church and formed a new religious group in protest at years of ‘mental, sexual and physical abuse’ at the hands of priests.

The Drogheda Independent reports that Duleek nun Mother Maria Francesca has ‘given up on Rome’ and joined the Ecumenical Catholic Church in the English city of Liverpool.

Mother Maria Francesca is now a Franciscan Sister of the Blessed Sacrament in Liverpool, a movement she helped to establish earlier this year.

The 58-year-old’s new Church allows women priests and married priests.

She told the paper that she cannot ‘stay silent’ anymore on the ‘bullying, sexual and physical abuse’ she and others have suffered at the hands of Catholic priests.

A member of the Stears family in the Meath village of Duleek, Mother Maria Francesca said she defended the Catholic Church to the hilt in the past.

“But I can no longer stay silent on the abuse I have suffered and witnessed or the fact the Vatican imposes rules I simply cannot follow,” she said.

“I can now embrace anyone - gay, lesbian, divorced, transsexual - everyone the hierarchy in the Vatican told me I was not allowed to accept or help.

“I personally suffered terrible physical and mental abuse at the hands of Catholic priests - I was sexually assaulted, thrown across the sacristy, I saw another sister struck - but when I complained to the Archbishop, I was told to ‘sit down and be quiet’. Well I did then, but I can’t anymore.”

The former nun confirmed she has followed recent events involving Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady with interest.

She is also aware of Vatican efforts to censor a number of priests, including Fr Brian D’Arcy.

“Cardinal Brady and his conspirators must step down immediately,” she demanded.

“Put them on trial and let the people judge them. The Archbishop of Dublin is the only man left in the Catholic Church I respect, as he cried real tears and handed over the files.”

Mother Maria Francesca also admitted it was very hard giving up the traditional Catholic Church at her age.

“It wasn’t easy to do, but so many of us now are disillusioned and want to come with us,” said the nun who formed the new order in March with Sister Maria Clare and Sister Maria Solanus.

“I always read what Fr Brian Darcy read, and agreed with it, and I know Fr Iggy in Drogheda and Fr John in Duleek, who are also wonderful priests, but I couldn’t continue to stay quiet about what I knew.

“I obeyed for 43 years, but there are so many broken people who need help, and are being turned away.

“I have known young girls made pregnant by Catholic priests and made to feel guilty for it, while the priest goes unpunished. It’s time they ‘fessed up, as they say on the streets of Liverpool.”