A Catholic priest in County Durham has been reprimanded after leaving his parishioners stunned by a "vulgar" sermon during a Good Friday service. 

An investigation was launched by the Catholic church after Father Thomas McHale of Our Blessed Lady Immaculate in Blackhill, Consett, took to the pulpit to say Jesus Christ had an erection when he died on the cross. 

Fr McHale is reported to have used his sermon on Good Friday to talk about the crucifixion, but in an inappropriate turn, focused on the anatomical aspects of the execution and claimed that Jesus Christ would have had an erection when he was nailed to the cross.

The 53-year-old American prelate told the 100 people gathered for the service, that that execution by crucifixion would have sent all the blood rushing down to Christ’s lower body.

One dismayed worshipper told The Times: "He told people Jesus died with an erection. The church was shocked. There were young families there."

Some described his comments as "vulgar".

Despite the complaints Fr McHale is understood to have kept his position.

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A spokesperson for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle said: "A complaint was received and has been investigated in keeping with our diocesan complaints policy. The investigation has been very recently completed and the complaint is upheld.

“Father McHale has accepted that his words were inappropriate and has apologised. He remains in post as parish priest.”