Outspoken priest backs Fr Sheehy, says he was left ‘speechless’ by Bishop of Kerry’s apology

When contacted by the Sunday World Fr McCafferty said his clerical colleague was ‘only saying what the church teaches”

Fr Paddy McCafferty

Richard SullivanSunday World

An outspoken Belfast cleric is on collision course with church hierarchy after backing a fellow priest’s pulpit rant on abortion and transgender rights.

Fr Paddy McCafferty last night told the Sunday World he had been left “speechless’’ over the Bishop of Kerry’s apology over comments delivered in a sermon at the weekend in Listowel.

The parish priest at Corpus Christi, in Ballymurphy, West Belfast, described as “utter nonsense’’ the decision by Bishop Ray Browne to apologise for remarks made by Sr Sean Sheehy.

He was standing in for Sunday morning mass last weekend when he told parishioners of the “mortal sins’’ of abortion, promotion of same gender sex and the “lunatic approach’’ of transgenderism.

When contacted by the Sunday World Fr McCafferty said his clerical colleague was “only saying what the church teaches.”

“It is utter nonsense (to apologise),” he said, “shock horror priest teaches what the church stands for.”

Fr Sean Sheehy

In footage shared on social media Fr Sheehy 80, told the congregation: “You rarely hear about sin, but it’s rampant, it’s rampant. We see it for example, in legislation.

“We see it in the promotion of abortion, we see it and in the example of this lunatic approach of transgenderism and in the promotion of sex between two men and two women.

“That is sinful. That is a mortal sin.”

His remarks prompted an estimated 30 members of the congregation to get up and leave and which resulted in Bishop Browne’s apology.

He said Fr Sheehy’s remarks “do not represent the Christian position.”

He added the homily at a regular weekend mass was not appropriate for such issues to be raised and that the gospel “ever proclaims the dignity of every human person.”

It cut little ice with Fr McCafferty who said the issue was such nonsense it’s “not worth talking about.”

He took to Twitter to proclaim “shame on the Bishop of Kerry” adding that Fr Sheehy was preaching the “Catholic and Christian faith’’ before referencing First Corinthians chapter 6 verses 9-11 which rails against “idolators’’ and same gender sex.

It’s not the first time the controversial cleric has rubbed Church bosses up the wrong way. In April Church authorities distanced themselves from his endorsement of an anti-abortion candidate in last May’s Assembly elections.

He urged his congregation to vote for Aontú.

During Mass on Easter Monday, he accused Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and “all that other crew” of promoting abortion.

Sinn Féin supports a policy of allowing terminations within the 12 weeks of pregnancy, while the SDLP and Alliance permit elected representatives to vote on matters relating to abortion on the basis of conscience.

Fr McCafferty said he had always voted for the SDLP but “not any more – never again, never”.

“I don’t like to talk about politics from the pulpit but I have a responsibility as a priest to ask the faithful to vote in accordance with what the Church teaches and what our faith believes,” he said.

“The evil of abortion is irreconcilable with being a Catholic, and the evil of abortion is promoted by parties like Sinn Féin and the SDLP and the rest of them... the Alliance...and all that other crew.”

He urged his congregation to “Vote pro-life... and pray for Aontú.” He went on to proclaim he would give the DUP his second preference solely on the basis of their anti-abortion stance.

A statement from the Diocese of Down and Connor said Fr McCafferty had spoken in a personal capacity.

The statement said the Catholic Church “does not endorse any political party”.

“The Church encourages every citizen to exercise their right to freely vote with an informed conscience,” the statement said.

“The views and opinions expressed by Fr Patrick McCafferty were communicated in a personal capacity.”

Meanwhile Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney weighed in to the controversy.

Speaking during his visit to Belfast on Wednesday Mr Coveney described Fr Sheehy’s remarks as “disgraceful.”

“I think they are a reflection on the person that made those comments rather than anything else, and they should be withdrawn and there should be an apology,” he said.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar, who will take over the office of Taoiseach at the end of the month, said the Minister did not “believe that gay people will go to hell for being who they are, nor does he believe that any man or woman can make such a judgment”.

And Bishop Browne came under pressure from the Association of Catholic Priests to sanction Fr Sheehy and ban him from celebrating Mass.

Fr Tim Hazelwood of the Association said the majority of priests had been left “appalled’’ by the remarks from the pulpit and also his further comment that politicians who support same sex marriage, including Mr Varadkar are going to hell if they don’t “repent their sin.’’

“He puts himself in the position of God to make judgments,” Fr Hazelwood said.

“The lack of any bit of remorse on his part shows he is going to do more damage to the church.”

He also criticised Fr Sheehy for showing “no consideration for the families of gay people and people who are transitioning”.

“Using the pulpit on a Sunday, with children and families present, ignoring the gospel of the day, which was the story of Zacchaeus — a beautiful story of Jesus forgiving a sinner, and instead getting on his high horse to say what he said — that is very disturbing.”

He said our understanding of sexuality has changed.

“Science and psychology has taught us a lot more. His language is archaic and of the past. “He represents a group in the church and society who like things black and white.”

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos