Priest refuses to back down over homily

Fr Seán Sheehy, the retired priest who sparked fierce debate over comments he made in a sermon in Listowel, Co Kerry over the weekend, is standing by his sermon.

Speaking yesterday, in an interview broadcasted this morning on Radio Kerry, Fr Sheehy said that he received support from parishioners despite backlash from others.

He said that while the media focus was on those who objected to his sermon, he had received a  standing ovation from those who remained and that his words were motivated by a sense of true compassion. 

Asked on Radio Kerry whether he felt he should be “more compassionate”, Fr Sheehy said that compassion today has been “totally co-opted”, and said that real compassion means being able to suffer with others, and to be present in a “helpful mode”.

“From a spiritual standpoint, the greatest help that I can be to people is to provide them with an opportunity to repent of their sin and seek the forgiveness that God makes available through his Church”, he said.

“It’s the truth. The truth hurts but it sets us free”.

While deputising for parish priest Fr Declan O’Connor, Fr Sheehy told Sunday Mass goers that sexual sin is rampant in society, as he called for repentance.

He told the congregation at St Mary’s Church that sex between two men or two women is a sin and described some approaches to transgenderism as ‘lunatic’.

He called for people to turn back to God, adding that repentance would save people from hell. He also pointed to the promotion of abortion as sinful.

“What is so sad today is we rarely hear about sin, but it’s rampant,” the priest said. “We see it for example in the legislation of our governments, we see it in the promotion of abortion, we see it in the example of this lunatic approach of transgenderism and in promotion of sex between two men and two women,” he added.

“That is sinful. That is mortal sin, and people don’t seem to realise it. But it’s a fact, it’s a reality. And we need to listen to God about it – because if we don’t, then there is no hope for those people,” he said. 

He told Catholics: “You have a responsibility to seek out those who are lost. You have a responsibility to call people to an awareness that sin is destructive, sin is detrimental, and sin will lead us to hell […] Heaven is full of converted sinners”. 

He added that: ”The day you die, you will find out [it] is the truth”. He also told parishioners: “God loves you. He has come to call sinners. He wants you to have life, and to have it to the full”.

In response to his homily, up to 20 Mass goers got up and left the Church, it was reported. Responding at the time, Fr Sheehy said, “God help you. That’s all I have to say to you”.

His comments today on Radio Kerry come after Fr Sheehy, during Mass on Tuesday morning, reiterated that he was simply stating what was in the Gospel. Fr Sheehy says he was subsequently told by the Bishop of Kerry, Dr Ray Browne, not to celebrate Mass until the parish priest, who is on pilgrimage, returns. The Bishop divided Catholics yesterday by apologising for Fr Sheehy’s comments, stressing in a statement that the views expressed during the sermon “do not represent the Christian position”.

Many Catholics have, however, pointed out that the views expressed are indeed the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Speaking to Radio Kerry today, Fr Sheehy pointed to the support he says he has received from Mass goers who applauded him for his sermon, thanking him for clearly preaching Church teachings.

“What about all the people who remained? What about all of them?

“When I completed the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the people applauded, a standing ovation, what about them? What about the people who came into the sacristy and said, ‘It’s high time we heard the truth’. What about those people? Are they fundamentalists too? That’s the reality”, he said. 

He also told the programme that he is reflecting the views of many Catholics.

When asked how he felt about Bishop Browne’s reaction to his homily, he told the programme that the Bishop “does not know” the Catechism of the Catholic Church, adding that he feels he was purely “coming out on his emotional side”.

“From a spiritual standpoint, the greatest help that I can be to people is to provide them with an opportunity to repent of their sin and seek the forgiveness that God makes available through his Church”, he said.

“Jesus, for example, did not come to make us feel good. He came to save people from their sins, and that was the Gospel on Sunday”.

He added that the Church has the responsibility to identify what is and what isn’t sin, and to save people lost in sin, including those who do not know they are living in sin.