Ireland: Priest reprimanded for blasting 'sinful' abortion, transgenderism and homosexuality

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By Euronews
YES posters cover a shop's windows in Dublin, Ireland, May 21, 2015, before a referendum that resulted in the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
YES posters cover a shop's windows in Dublin, Ireland, May 21, 2015, before a referendum that resulted in the legalisation of same-sex marriage.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Peter Morrison

Comments by a retired priest in Ireland who has vehemently condemned abortion, transgenderism and homosexuality have provoked an outcry and an admonishment from a Catholic bishop, as well as leading politicians.

Father Seán Sheehy has doubled down on his remarks made at the weekend, saying in a radio interview on Wednesday that gay politicians — including deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar — were "absolutely" going to hell because their acts were "contrary to the law of God".

The priest had already caused anger at Mass as he was standing in at Listowel in County Kerry, when he said sin was "rampant".

"We see it 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. We see it, for example, in the promotion of sex between two men and two women. That is sinful! That is mortal sin!" he told his congregation.

Same-sex marriage in Ireland was legalised following a referendum in 2015, while the country's previous near-total ban on abortion was overturned following a 2018 referendum. 

The Bishop of Kerry, Ray Browne, published an apology on the diocesan website on Tuesday.

"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," he said.

Sheehy says he has been told he will be prevented from saying Mass as a result of his remarks. 

Among the politicians to condemn his comments are Leo Varadkar and foreign minister Simon Coveney, who described them as "disgraceful" on Wednesday.

Ben Slimm, a Labour representative for Kerry who is gay, accused Sheehy of double standards and of conducting a "dangerous" conversation promoting conversion therapy.

"I think the idea that this man could preach on behalf of a supposed loving, caring community church is quite damaging," he told Radio Kerry. "The people of Listowel have been wonderful since this sermon was preached at the weekend, and have really come out and shown that the queer community as always are very welcome in Listowel."

Around 20 to 30 people reportedly walked out of Father Sheehy's sermon — which was live-streamed — although others are said to have given him a standing ovation in a subsequent appearance.

By no means all of the reaction has been negative. Some on social media have spoken out in defence of the retired priest. 

Rebecca Barrett, a member of Ireland's small far-right National Party, tweeted to dispute the bishop's contention that Sheehy's comments did not represent "the Christian position".

"They do. They just do," she insisted. "Abortion and homosexuality are sinful. What are you doing sitting there at mass if you don’t believe that?"

An article in the American Conservative described Sheehy's comments as "bog-standard Christianity" and said the bishop had thrown the priest "under the bus".