As a Vatican consultant and a former spiritual adviser to student priests in Rome, you might have expected Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo to be a model of sobriety.
But he was pictured ‘visibly sloshed’ with his dog collar askew after his hire car hit a pregnant solicitor’s 4×4 on the M25. He was more than twice the drink-drive limit.
Figueiredo, 54, who is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, in the US, pulled over after the rush-hour accident and was photographed in his dishevelled state by the other driver, Olivia Parfitt, on her phone.
Miss Parfitt, who is five months pregnant with her first child, dialled 999, but Figueiredo drove off.
Over the limit: Anthony Figueiredo ‘visibly sloshed’ by the M25 minutes after the collision
Police stopped him further round the M25 in Surrey on October 1. He was breathalysed, held in a police cell until he sobered up and released after being charged with driving a motor vehicle above the legal limit.
He was found to have 81microgrammes of alcohol in 100millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35. He pleaded guilty at Guildford Magistrates’ Court on October 19 and was banned from driving for 18 months.
Monsignor is a title bestowed on a priest who has distinguished himself and been honoured by the Pope for service to the church.
Adviser: With Pope Benedict in 2014
Miss Parfitt, 35, was on her way home from work to Guildford, where she lives with her husband, also a solicitor, when the Nissan Qashqai driven by Figueiredo hit her Range Rover Evoque.
She told the Mail outside court: ‘He came out of nowhere, hit the rear passenger side of my car and shunted me across one lane. We both pulled over to the side of the road. He told me it was my fault, and I said ‘No, don’t be so ridiculous’ – because he hit me from behind. I could smell alcohol on his breath and he was visibly sloshed.
‘I said ‘You’re drunk aren’t you?’ He shrugged. Then I phoned 999.’
When he told her he had to catch a flight, she said he should stay because police were on their way. He ‘hung around for few minutes shuffling about’ before driving off.
Miss Parfitt said: ‘I was really shaken up.’ She said she was taken to hospital and the baby was checked on and given an emergency scan – which was fine.
Figueiredo appeared in court wearing his dog collar and gave his address as his mother’s home in Watford. He told magistrates he was ashamed of the drink-driving.
Raised in Kenya, he was ordained in 1994. While working at the Pontifical North American College in Rome until 2016, he was a spiritual director to hundreds of seminarians, and has also advised cardinals and worked closely with the Pope.
He is a media commentator on Church and Vatican affairs. He is understood to have been in the UK to visit his mother at the time of the incident.
Miss Parfitt said: ‘He’s in the media talking about the importance of being a moral, upstanding person, but he gambled with other people’s lives when he decided to drive when he had been drinking.’
Miss Parfitt did not attend the magistrates’ court hearing. Figueiredo did not respond to a request for a comment. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said: ‘Monsignor Figueiredo has been recalled to his home diocese in the US.’