A bishop in Ireland has rebuked a priest who made anti-LGBTQ+ comments during a homily, reportedly barring the priest from celebrating Mass.
Fr. Sean Sheehy, a retired priest, was asked to fill in for the pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Listowel, Ireland. During the homily, Sheehy openly condemned the promotion of “sex between two men and two women” and the “lunatic approach of transgenderism.” His homophobic and transphobic rhetoric resulted in over 30 parishioners walking out of Mass.
In response to the homily, Bishop Ray Browne of Kerry issued a statement apologizing for Sheehy’s “offending” homily, saying:
“‘I am aware of the deep upset and hurt caused by the contents of the homilies in question delivered over the weekend. I apologize 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.'”
Even after being publicly rebuked by his bishop and, according to Sheehy, being barred from celebrating Mass, the priest stood by the homily. In an interview, Sheehy stated that gay people “will go to hell” and specifically targeted Ireland’s openly gay Deputy Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar. Sheehy claimed that Varadkar must “repent his sins and seek forgiveness.”
A spokesperson for Varadkar stated that the politician respects Sheehy’s viewpoint but does not agree with him. The spokesperson stated, “As Pope Francis said, ‘Who are we to judge?’ As the Bible says, ‘Judge not lest you be judged’. We are all God’s children.”
Other members of the LGBTQ+ community have expressed anger and sadness regarding Sheehy’s comments. Saoirse Mackin, a trans rights activist, said she was disappointed, but the incident “did not surprise her” because she believes LGBTQ+ exclusion and discrimination is common within Irish Catholic churches. She advocates for creating inclusive spaces which would invite “more people back into the church.” Mackin continued:
“‘They are crying out for priests, concerned about low attendances at mass – but this can be easily fixed. In reality, allowing more people into the church will help bring more in, but it’s a shame that for the most part, some priests feel the same way as Fr Sheehy preached that day.'”
Bishop Brown’s decision to ban Fr. Sheehy from ministry and offer an apology for the harm caused is an example of the true “Christian position,” which is one of love and of acceptance. Hopefully, the bishop will continue to advocate and stand with the LGBTQ+ community going forward, and other religious leaders will be inspired to protect LGBTQ+ individuals when people in ministry engage in harmful behavior.
—Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, November 9, 2022