shock behaviour | 

Kerry priest who attacked homosexuality during mass previously supported sex offender

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 Sean Sheehy

Ciara O'Loughlin and Stephen

A priest who attacked homosexuality during a sermon in a Co Kerry church previously supported a convicted sex offender and hugged him in court, it has emerged.

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

More than 30 parishioners walked out of mass at St Mary’s Church in Listowel at the weekend after Fr Sean 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’.

On Tuesday night, the priest said he stands over these 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.”

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 Arbor 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.

In his witness statement to the court at the time, Fr Sheehy said: “He always struck me as having the height of respect for women.

"There is not an abusive bone in his body. His respectfulness certainly struck me.”

Following censure from the then Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy, Fr Sheehy stepped down as the parish priest of Castlegregory, in Co Kerry, a few weeks after the verdict.

Journalist Claire Byrne said she was “left speechless” after interviewing the priest on Newstalk at the time.

During an interview, Fr Sheehy said Foley got “an extremely harsh sentence” that he was a victim of a “miscarriage of justice” and that his only wrongdoing was the he engaged in a sexual act outside of marriage on the night in question.

Speaking about the victim, Fr Sheehy said: “I don’t want to make any judgment on her at all, but obviously the whole situation must have been embarrassing, for the police to happen upon them and what-not.

"She’s the mother of a young child as well and, you know, that in itself doesn’t look great.”

The victim’s aunt told media at the time that her niece was refused service in shops in Listowel and had been shunned on the street by Foley’s supporters.

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.”

Fr Sheehy said sin was rampant and told parishioners they had a responsibility to ‘seek out’ those who are lost and to call people to an awareness that sin is destructive, detrimental and would lead people to hell.

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 worshiping God,” he said.

Fr Sheehy continued: “I was talking to a woman a few weeks ago whose 17-year-old daughter was out with friends in Tralee. She came home and handed her mother a condom…a HSE van was handing these out in Tralee.

"That is promoting promiscuity. That is horrible, horrible. As Christians, we need to stand up for God. If we don’t there is no hope for many people.”

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.

"The homily at a regular weekend parish Mass is not appropriate for such issues to be spoken of in such terms. I regret that this has occurred while a parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land is taking place,” Bishop Browne said.

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