Philip James French: the Fake Catholic Bishop of Whitby

In my recent article James Atkinson-Wake:“Who wears the Mitre of Satan” about the identity changing individual who heads a questionable international network of Episcopi-Vagantes and has been targeting Anglo-Catholics, I mentioned a Philip James French- the only one of the many “bishops” of the “Catholic Church OF England and Wales” (CCEW) which seems to actually have a Church building in the UK, St Ninians Whitby. Soon after this I was contacted by residents of the small town of Whitby asking if I could help them- it did not take long to uncover a disturbing tale, back up by official statements of multiple churches familiar with French.

The numerous allegations against Philip James French including abusive behaviour towards Whitby residences (including old women), alcohol abuse and drunken behaviour, it being an open secret he is in a homosexual relationship with the other “monk” at his cottage based monastery, and a long history of misrepresenting himself as a ‘Roman Catholic’ priest: which many only find out he is not after complaining to the local Catholic diocese. Of course it helps when allegations are back up with official statements from several different churches and screen shots like this Facebook conversion after a night out drinking:


From the date it was a Sunday service that was being referred to, and “Can’t believe we’re after the same bloke” was alleged by the supplier that French expressed sexual interest in the man they were dating.


Philip James French was at one stage a Catholic layman who in 1996 with 2 others tried founding a Benedictine monastery, but when the local Catholic bishop refused to recognize French’s group, he left the Catholic Church and defected to the Old Catholic Church being ordained to the priesthood by the leader of that church Bishop Distin in 1999.

2-3 years later he had changed churches again to the “Holy Catholic Church (Western Rite)” (HCC-WC) were in 2002 he came to the attention of the BBC who published this article after he tried to hold Mass in a historic chapel after leading the local council who administered the chapel to believe that he was a “Catholic priest”. This was stopped when the local Catholic and Anglican dioceses protested to the council. One statement given by the Catholic diocesan official in the article:

“”In light of us contacting Redcar Council they have said they were, and these are my words, ‘taken in by this man’.””

This 2002 BBC article has recently begun to be circulated among Whitby residents, many of whom had been lead to believe French’s St Ninians church was apart of the 1.2 billion member Catholic Church.

The then head of the HCC-WC, Archbishop Leslie Hamlet, defended Philip French in the media over the 2002 affair, but two years later in 2004 he was involved in a media spat with French, issuing a statement to the Yorkshire Post:

Father French was suspended by me from the ministry. I can’t say why…

…Father French is not in my care anymore. He resigned after I suspended him.”

In 2004 French took the community of St Ninians into the Anglican Catholic Church (UK) and remained until 2013- the particulars of his time best described by a statement issued to us by the head of the Anglican Catholic Church (UK) Bishop Damien Mead:

On 26th January 2013, I received the written and verbal resignation of Philip-James French from the ministry and membership of the Anglican Catholic Church. 

He had previously been associated with the Holy Catholic Church (Western Rite) under the former ACC Bishop (and my predecessor) Bishop Leslie Hamlett. There was some confusion in that Church, I believe, about whether when he joined them he claimed to have been a Roman Catholic Priest. I ascertained that before joining HCC(WR) he was ordained by an “Old Catholic Bishop” by the surname Distin (I believe that was the name but am not sure). Upon joining us in 2004 he was ordained sub conditione deacon and priest because of the lack of clarity regarding the origins of his orders.

French also informed me that the Church Wardens and Members of St Ninian’s Church, Baxtergate, North Yorkshire, had withdrawn their membership, and that of the Parish, from the Anglican Catholic Church. He further indicated that both actions were with immediate effect.

Although not under formal disciplinary investigation, French’s resignation was, as he conveyed to me when tendering his resignation verbally and in very unnecessary, unpleasant and strong language, prompted by his summons to attend my Diocesan Council Meeting in London earlier in January 2013 when he had been asked questions relating to a number of the concerns you have mentioned regarding his behaviour and attitude – including allegations of the misrepresentation of himself as a Roman Catholic Priest and complaints we had received including, but not limited to, his problems with alcohol which have been long term and which all offers and attempts made by me to help him with, were rebuffed with a denial of any problems. 

Before a decision could be taken as to the action we needed to take he, as I have said, resigned. 

Although I greatly mourn the loss of the handful of good faithful people in the congregation at St Ninian’s from the ACC, and would welcome their return, I would not again receive French.

In Christ


One Whitby resident who was allegedly subjected to extremely abusive behaviour by French, who had lead them to believe he was a “Roman Catholic” priest contacted the local Catholic diocese saying:

“Good afternoon,

I hope I have emailed the correct place, and I hope you can help me. I’m contacting you regarding a local church in my hometown of Whitby, they claim to be Roman Catholic, but I cannot find confirmation of that online and I am a little confused.

Is St Ninians church in Whitby a Roman Catholic Church as they so regularly claim?”

To which a diocesan official sent them the following statement (note statement by same official as the 2002 BBC article, and was issued more than a decade afterwards):

“I can confirm without hesitation that the people who gather in the building in Whitby known as ‘St Ninian’s Church’ have no connection whatsoever to the Roman Catholic Church.

The building itself has a fascinating history. St Ninian’s was established in the 19th century as a privately owned chapel for the fishing community in Whitby but was licensed for worship according to the rites of the Church of England. In recent years the trust that own the building parted company with the Church of England and have allowed the current organisation to use it for their worship

The current occupants of St Ninian’s do not relate to any of the mainstream Christian denominations and should be regarded as a kind of ‘private club’ for people who like and enjoy the way they understand and practise their faith.

Over the years I have responded many people like you who are confused by the assertions made in respect of St Ninian’s that they are an RC Church and once again I am very pleased to tell you that the Roman Catholic Church in Whitby is St Hilda’s Church, Bagdale, Whitby, YO21 1QT and the Parish Priest is Father Pat Keogh.

I hope my response has been of some assistance but please feel free to contact me again if I can help further.

With all good wishes

Canon Derek Turnham                                                                   

Parish Priest of Blessed Nicholas Postgate, Redcar

Episcopal Vicar for Christian Discipleship                                                    

Diocesan Communications Officer”

Of course Philip French is not a member of the Catholic Church under Rome, let alone a priest for it, but strangely an image of the Vatican is his Facebook page cover photo:


This image taken from his Facebook page after returning to a trip to Greece (with his fellow “monk”) shows the Vatican as his computers background image:


Of course what was some of the strange things to deal with?

The Ghost of 2002

As mentioned before, recently the 2002 BBC article showing French is not an actual Catholic priest has been circulating among the residents of Whitby, one woman placed it on the St Ninians church Facebook page- the initial post was removed and this statement appeared:



The statement sparked a furry of comments, most of which were deleted but not without having screen shots taken: a few of which are below (names and photos have been blacked out, with the woman’s name who posted being blanked out in red).


Regarding the last comment, if you were wondering if French would call the police on anyone:


Also someone informed French of my investigation and he sent me this message via Facebook:


And my employer was also sent this message:

Dear Ordinary 
I address this as such as I am not sure who picks up these messages. 

I am contacting you to report the behaviour of a Simon Dennerly who claims to be a part of your ordinariate and to speak on your behalf. He has launched an attack on social media via his religious gossip blog on me personally and the church I serve in North Yorkshire. I have reported him to our local police and your police in Perth. 

Please could you deal with this matter before we have to take further action in court. 

Fraternally in Christ 

+ Dom Philip-James French OSB. 

Of course a quick check with Perth police showed no such complaint was laid. I have only mentioned him once- that French and St Ninians were once ACC and switched to CCEW, and from what I can see saying I was representing my employer and that he was considering legal action was an attempt at intimidation (as making false complaints and threatening people is illegal, I am taking legal advice especially as putting someone from the CCEW on the stand and have to answer questions about their organisation is of interest to me).

Having communicated with some of the posters and other residents of Whitby, many made the same allegations that they had been abused by French, they had witnessed disgraceful drunken behaviour, French’s relationship status etc. I asked many of them did the people of Whitby think he was a “Catholic priest” of the 1.2 billion member Catholic Church under Rome, and they confirmed that is a widely held belief. One resident commented “he is not a harmless priest who likes a drink, he is a vicious menace.

On the monastery section on the St Ninians  website it mentions the so-called Benedictine monastery was founded within the Catholic Church in 1996- although there is nothing about it currently comes under the CCEW or under its questionable leader James Atkinson-Wake, self styled “Cardinal of the UK”: who French is the secretary for as shown on the CCEW website:

Job Title

But French regularly posts on the St Ninian’s Facebook page “Roman Catholic” material, including quotes like this one showing the Papal coat of arms:

Papal seal

French Killing St Ninians?

An appeal in the Whitby Gazette by French in 2014 that the historic St Ninian’s church would have to close within a year due to a lack of funds linked to declining parishioner numbers unless funding could be found:

due to spiralling costs to run and falling congregation numbers, Fr Philip French says the church is becoming unsustainable unless the people of Whitby step in to help.

In the light of allegations of being abusive to parishioners, including one who was the parish treasurer, and his reputation around Whitby, the question has to be asked if French is killing the historic church by driving away worshippers and their money, and if it has to shut how that would affect tourism and income to the town of Whitby.


There is far more to to this story, but this article is already quite long. In this writers opinion Philip James French is a fraud who is slowly killing the community of St Ninians (who needs to remove French) and is endangering its historic church building. Of course the stakeholders extend beyond St Ninians to the people of Whitby itself.

French likes to claim he AND St Ninians is under attack, trying to use his parishioners as human shields: were all issues of concern are directed at French, his behaviour and his questionable history. It seems to me parishioners at St Ninian’s do need to take some accountability and hear the claims of their fellow Whitby residents in Christian charity in something like a town hall meeting (would French show up to a town hall meeting and frankly answer questions about his behaviour, why the HCC-WR suspended him, or why he left the ACC, the creditablity of the CCEW etc? Only one way to find out).

If there was such a town hall meeting I believe the local Catholic diocese would send a representative considering the amount of people who have contacted them believing French is a ‘Roman Catholic’ priest for more than a decade. Perhaps another representative could be Bishop Damien Mead of the ACC who could speak to why he called French in for a ‘please explain’ over claims of representing himself as a ‘Roman Catholic’ priest. If French came he could explain why the St Ninian’s Facebook page is more Roman than most Roman Catholic social media. There is a clear pattern French likes to associate himself with the Catholic Church, while damaging its reputation with his actions. If St Ninians wants to be Roman Catholic then it just need apply, indeed many other mainstream churches would take them- they just would not accept French.

In Bishop Meads statement “complaints we had received including, but not limited to, his problems with alcohol which have been long term and which all offers and attempts made by me to help him with, were rebuffed with a denial of any problems.”: problems many Whitby residents can and have attested too- so many it cannot be denied. Also distributing is the multiple allegations of abusive behaviour, especially against old women- I think many people need to talk to the police French keeps threatening people with.

The actual Catholic Church is dealing with many public scandals at the moment caused by the disgraceful actions of a few bishops, with the public critical of why when so many knew so much, why nothing was done about very serious allegations. It seems the same criticism can be pointed at many in Whitby- a priests collar (especially from such a questionable “church”) is not a get out of jail free card, its a sign that individual needs to be held to the highest standards of behaviour: the people of Whitby should ask Philip James French for a “please explain”, which of course is the usual point he resigns.

30/10/2018- The follow up article: The Reckoning of the Fake Catholic Bishop of Whitby

Over all this is another case study of the bad fruit of the ever questionable Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church (ICAB) which James Atkinson-Wakes so called “Catholic Church of England and Wales” is a proud spin off of- but now English language material is coming out such as the new book “God, Land and Freedom: The True Story of I.C.A.B” about ICAB and its splinter groups: revelling many shocking details and challenging fundamental claims made by these groups, including their claims of being actually Catholic (James Atkinson-Wake also gets a mention…).

9 thoughts on “Philip James French: the Fake Catholic Bishop of Whitby

  1. Pingback: I’ll cut your leg off any day! | New Goliards

  2. I have just got the Kindle version of the ICAB book. I attended a meeting of those gentlemen in Lisbon in October 2004. The prelate in charge in Portugal was one Antonio da Costa Raposo who wanted to create some kind of “continuing” Old Catholic Church union in Europe and elsewhere. With the ICAB bishops, I never met a more disorderly bunch of men. A few seemed to be pious during a visit to Fatima, and I had a good impression of Bishop Dom Josivaldo Pereira de Oliveira who took over when +Castillo Mendez died. I caught my plane back to France with the regret that I had wasted my money on the air fare.


  3. Pingback: James Atkinson-Wake: “who wears the Mitre of Satan” | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog


  5. Pingback: The Reckoning of the Fake Catholic Bishop of Whitby? | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

  6. Pingback: “A Wandering Bishop I, a Thing of Shreds and Patches” | The Amish Catholic

    • I see what you did there- I don’t actually know the dates of the Christmas markets so I don’t really know Whitby and don’t know anything about French: who you gave supportive comments about in the St Ninians FB group. A friend asked me once how religious conmen get away with it- I said old women who have emotional attachments and therefore will never look at evidence. Is the local Catholic diocese and the ACC all lairs?


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