A PRIEST has rejected claims he abused two young boys at a vicarage in Bury and on trips to London.

John McCollough gave evidence at Bolton Crown Court on Monday, accused of 11 indecent assaults and one act of gross indecency against a child.

It is alleged he performed sex acts with the young boys, touched them inappropriately and tried to kiss them while McCollough was an Anglican rector at Christ of King with Holy Trinity Church in Spring Street, Bury, during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Asked if he had sexually abused the two boys, McCollough said: "No."

The trial had earlier been told how one of the victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, regularly stayed overnight at the vicarage with his mother's consent and had been taken on two trips to London, when he was sexually abused by McCollough.

The 63-year-old would also invite young children, boys in particular, to the vicarage to watch adventure films on video. He also worked closely with a boxing club.

Mr Maurice Greene, prosecuting, said: "I suggest you groomed these boys, enticed them to the vicarage with videos, boxing equipment, sweets. You got one boy to stay over. I suggest that you groomed and enticed them to satisfy your own sexual gratification."

McCollough answered: "I don't thank you for what you have said. I reject it."

The jury of seven men and five women was told how McCollough worked as an Anglican rector in Bury between 1985 and 1995 but converted to Catholicism in protest at the Church of England's decision to allow women to be ordained as priests. He is currently a priest at St Vincent's Church in Dagenham but was put on administrative leave when the sex abuse allegations were reported to police in Bury in 2006.

McCollough's first alleged victim turned to heroin abuse at the age of 14 while the second boy has been jailed for robbery, burglary and other crimes. They each blame the priest for their troubles.

Questioned about his sexuality, McCollough told the jury: "I want to put it this way. Over the course of my life, the past 40 to 50 years, I have had the friendship of many people, some young, some of my own age and some older, and of both sexes. For my part in the relationships, I have tried to care for and to love these friends. None of the relationships has led to sexual acts."

Mr Greene asked the priest why both boys would make up the allegations. McCollough, now of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, said: "I think there is only one reason all this came about and I think it is to do with compensation."

The case continues.