Controversial cleric | 

Irish priest says Fr Seán Sheehy had ‘no regard’ for families with controversial homily

“He's a retired priest who worked in the United States where that kind of polarised way of thinking and engaging is very prominent”

Fr Sean Sheehy

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

A member of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has said he doesn’t think many priests in Kerry will be inviting controversial Fr Seán Sheehy to fill in for them, after comments he made in church caused uproar.

More than 30 parishioners walked out of mass at St Mary’s Church in Listowel at the weekend after Fr Seán Sheehy condemned transgenderism, same-sex couples, and supplying condoms to teenagers in his sermon.

Shocked mass-goers were subjected to an outpouring of anger from the pulpit, which many deemed tactless, insensitive, and represented a throwback to the days of clerical authority.

Fr Sheehy, who is deputising for Listowel Parish Priest Canon Declan O’Connor, criticised Government legislation around what he said was the promotion of abortion and described the “lunatic approach of transgenderism”.

Fr Sheehy has since said he stands over his comments at the mass in Listowel last weekend, despite having since been taken off the local parish roster.

This morning, Fr Tim Hazelwood from the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland said the biggest issue was with the way the homily was given.

“He had no regard for the families that were sitting the pews, for people who would have gay or transgender members and their families,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“It was, ‘I'm going to let you have it whether you like it or not’.

Asked whether Fr Sheehy, who is a retired priest, should be saying mass in Ireland in the future considering the fact that he believes he was right, Fr Hazelwood said that was up to the Bishop.

“He (Fr Sheehy) is not a priest of the Diocese of Kerry, he's a retired priest who worked in the United States where that kind of polarised way of thinking and engaging is very prominent.

“I think in Ireland, there's a different way we try and do things where we are bit more considerate.

“So, it's up to the Bishop of Kerry but I don't think many priests in Kerry will be inviting him to fill in for them.”

On Tuesday night, Fr Sheehy said he stood over his remarks.

"Bishop Browne said that he was going to take me off all mass and I said okay fine, I couldn’t care less really.

“I know myself what I said cannot be disproven by any honest to God Christian or Catholic teaching, and that’s the bottom line” he told Radio Kerry.

He added that Bishop of Kerry Ray Browne, who has apologised for the comments and said they do not reflect Christianity, is “muzzling the truth in order to appease people.”

It has since emerged that Fr Sheehy who attacked homosexuality during mass previously supported sex offender and even hugged him, saying afterward: “I just wanted to support him, just let him know he was not alone”.

Thirteen years ago, Fr Sheehy supported convicted sex offender Danny Foley and gave him a witness statement.

The then 35-year-old Foley from Meen was convicted on December 4, 2009, at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old woman on the morning of June 16, 2008, in a car park at the back of Mermaids nightclub, in the centre of Listowel.

He received a sentence of seven years in prison with the two final years suspended, and was released from Arbour Hill in September 2013 after serving less than four years.

Fr Sheehy, along with reportedly around 50 other people, who were mainly men, marched into the courtroom and shook hands with Foley.

The priest even hugged the convicted sex offender, saying afterward: “I just wanted to support him, just let him know he was not alone”.

Fr Sheehy did not respond to requests for comment.

After Fr Sheehy’s sermon last weekend, Bishop of Kerry Ray Browne said his views do not reflect the Catholic Church.

In his homily, Fr Sheehy said: “We see it, for example, in the promotion of sex between two men and two women. That is sinful. That is a mortal sin and people don’t seem to realise it.

“It’s a fact, a reality, and we need to listen to God about it because if we don’t, then there is no hope for those people.”

The priest was heckled by parishioners, many of whom left the church.

But undeterred, he continued his homily adding that people should admit they are sinners.

“There are people who won’t like what I’m saying, but the day you die you’ll find out what I’m saying is what God is saying…Those of you who happen to be leaving today, God help you. That’s all I have to say to you. And God bless you who are here and worshipping God,” he said.

In a statement, Bishop Browne said he is aware of the deep upset and hurt caused by the contents of Fr Sheehy’s homily.

“I apologise to all who were offended. The views expressed do not represent the Christian position.

Speaking on Radio Kerry, the priest claimed that some parishioners have since thanked him for his sermon.

When asked by Kerry Today host Jerry O’Sullivan: “Do you think that our politicians, the ones who legislate for things like same sex marriage - some of them are openly gay, the soon to be Taoiseach again Leo Varadkar - do you think they are going to hell?,” he responded: “Absolutely, if they don’t repent on sin and seek forgiveness”.

“Because what they’re doing is contrary to the law of nature and secondly, and more importantly, it’s contrary to the law of God. When you go against God, who is the author of life, you actually go against life itself.”

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