By Cate McCurry, PA
A priest said openly gay politicians who support same-sex marriage, including Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, will “go to hell” if they “don’t repent their sin and seek forgiveness”.
Retired priest Fr Sean Sheehy made the comments as he tried to defend his address in a Co Kerry church over the weekend, in which he said gay couples were sinful and criticised free contraception being provided by the HSE.
Fr Sheehy has been banned from saying Mass following his controversial sermon at St Mary’s Church in Listowel.
He claimed to be preaching “the word of God”.
He also said sin is “enshrined in legislation” while referring to same-sex marriage and abortion.
“As those things are legislated, people think those things are OK and that’s not true,” he said.
“Right and wrong is determined by God and the teaching of scriptures.”
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys called on the priest to apologise and withdraw his remarks.
She said: “Those are absolutely unacceptable comments and I’m disappointed to hear that a priest would make comments like that.
“However, I understand the bishop has apologised.”
Ms Humphreys added: “I think that those comments are absolutely wrong. He should not have said that. They’re very hurtful comments and I expect that he should really come out and apologise. Yes, they’re wrong.
“It’s a terrible thing to say, and it shouldn’t have been said.”
Asked if she believes the Catholic Church should sanction the priest, Ms Humphreys said it is a matter for the church.
She refused to say if she believes the comments would be classed as hate speech.
Fr Sheehy told Kerry Today radio station on Wednesday gay people “will go to hell”.
Asked if politicians who are openly gay, including Mr Varadkar, are going to hell, he said: “Absolutely, if they don’t repent on their sin and seek forgiveness.
“What they are doing is contrary, first of all to the law of nature and secondly, and more importantly, it’s contrary to the law of God.”
A video of Fr Sheehy’s comments from Sunday’s ceremony has been shared widely online and prompted condemnation of his views.
A number of people walked out of the Mass in response to his comments.
In response to the comments, Bishop of Kerry Ray Browne apologised to those who were upset by Fr Sheehy’s “offending” homily and said his views do not represent “the Christian position”.
He said to have “total respect for one another” is a “fundamental Christian teaching”, and for these issues to be spoken of “in such terms” at a weekend parish Mass was inappropriate.
“I am aware of the deep upset and hurt caused by the contents of the homilies in question delivered over the weekend,” Bishop Browne said.
“I apologise to all who were offended. The views expressed do not represent the Christian position.”