Irish priest reprimanded by bishop for homilies about sin

Kevin J. Jones   By Kevin J. Jones for CNA


Father Sean Sheehy / St. Mary’s Listowel/Radio Kerry/YouTube screen shot

Denver, Colo., Nov 2, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

An Irish bishop apologized for a priest’s homily that described abortion and homosexual acts as examples of sinful behavior.

Bishop Ray Browne of Kerry published an apology on Nov. 1 for “the deep upset and hurt caused by the contents of the homilies“ given over the weekend by Father Seán Sheehy.

Video of the sermon was shared widely on social media and sparked both strong criticism and support from commentators.

Sheehy, who is retired, had been filling in for a parish priest at St. Mary’s Church in Listowel, a County Kerry town of fewer than 5,000 people. The reprimanded cleric on Wednesday told Irish media the bishop was “muzzling the truth in order to appease people.”

In his recent sermon, the Irish priest reflected on sin, penitence, sainthood, and God’s forgiveness.

“You rarely hear about sin, but it’s rampant,” he said. “We see it in the promotion of abortion. We see it for example in this lunatic approach of transgenderism.”

Another example, Sheehy said, was “the promotion of sex between two men and two women. That is sinful. That is a mortal sin and people don’t seem to realize it. It’s a fact, a reality, and we need to listen to God about it because if we don’t, then there is no hope for those people.”

Several of the congregation heckled the priest and some walked out.

“And so God is also telling you and me today, look, you have a responsibility to seek out those who are lost. You have a responsibility to call people to an awareness of the fact that sin is destructive, sin is detrimental, and sin will lead us to hell,” the priest said.

Then Sheehy reflected that the saints honored in November are former sinners.

“When we honor the saints on the first of this coming month, we honor people who are saints. Why are there saints? Because they’re repented and because they sought forgiveness. As somebody said one time, heaven is full of converted sinners,” he said.

“And so today, God says to us, ‘I have come to call sinners, but if you don’t admit you’re a sinner, then you’re not listening to my call and I can’t do anything for you because it’s a two-way street.’ Now, there are people you see who won’t like to hear what I’m saying, but the day you die, you will find out.

“What I’m saying is not what I invented, it is not what I came up with, [it] is what God is saying. And the day you die, you will find out that is the truth. Our prayer for people is that you, it won’t be too late for people. But how will people know that God wants to forgive them if we don’t tell them? How will people who are lost be found if we as God’s people don’t call them and say look, God loves you, he has come to call sinners, but he wants you to have life and have it to the full,” he continued.

“That’s what he wants. He wants you to live life to the fullest … we can only live it through, with, and in his grace,” the priest said.

Bishop Browne’s statement regarding “the offending homilies” said that “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,” the bishop continued.

“The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a Gospel of love and ever proclaims the dignity of every human person. It calls on us all to ever have total respect for one another,” Browne added, saying: “This fundamental Christian teaching was beautifully proclaimed” in recent readings at Mass.

Speaking to Radio Kerry, Father Sheehy said the bishop had stopped him from saying Mass.

“I know myself what I said cannot be disproven by any honest-to-God Christian or Catholic teaching, and that’s the bottom line,” the priest said.

Irish newspapers were quick to report the priest’s controversial past support for a convicted sex offender.

Sheehy was a character witness for Daniel Foley, a former bouncer convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in the parking lot of a nightclub in 2008. He joined dozens of the accused’s supporters in court when the conviction was announced in December 2009 and shook the hand of the then 35-year-old Foley, and made disparaging comments concerning the woman’s status as a single mother, The Irish Examiner reported in 2013.

Then-bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy censured Sheehy, who resigned from his parish in Castlegregory soon after the verdict but continued to support Foley.

There are about 140,000 people living in the territory of the Diocese of Kerry, the vast majority of whom are Catholic.

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  1. With bishops like Kerry’s Ray Browne who needs Luther?
    “Be a sinner and sin on bravely, but have stronger faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the victor of sin, death, and the world. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the abiding place of justice: sin must be committed. Sin cannot tear you away from him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders” (Enders, Briefwechsel III 208).
    How ironic to read a modern Protestant, Harriet Beecher Stowe speak infinitely more in line with Christ, and Catholicism than Catholic Bishop Ray Browne:
    “Christ died for sin and took its penalty upon himself as a necessary sacrifice, to the governmental view of the atonement that interpreted the death of Christ as an example of the seriousness of sin that inspires sinners to repent and live sacrificial lives for others” (Harriet Beecher Stowe in Stowe’s theological transition reformation 21).
    With retired Catholic priests like Fr Sean Sheehy who needs Bishop Ray Browne?

    • A word on Harriet Beecher Stowe among her many books, Uncle Tom’s Cabin awakened a social humanist consciousness, a presumed catalyst for the Civil War and Proclamation of Emancipation. Biographers consider her feminist activist, the more staid Christian. Her Protestant attitude toward Catholicism reflected the anti Catholic Protestant mind [her father a minister referred the Church as that scarlet lady in Rome] of the day, although not quite as vitriolic, although markedly critical, exclaiming she would accomplish infinitely more for justice than nuns living like ‘potato sprouts’ in shaded convents. @Potato sprout nuns in shaded convents save souls drawing down graces for the spiritually needy. Love knows no barriers neither in time nor space. Or person. The complete lover of Christ knows this. Evident in the martyr of love living in her shaded convent, and the missionary martyr of love in the forests of Borneo.

  2. Lol….Guess the bishop will cancel Jesus about the Bread of Life Discourse that offended those who ‘returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.’

  3. “The views expressed do not represent the christian position.”


    (BTW – Want a good example of why so many people have left the Church in Ireland?)

  4. I think there is fault on both sides here. The bishop’s apology is cringe (to use what I think is the popular vernacular). The priest’s approach is a bit heavy-handed, let’s say. I understand that this was an Anniversary Mass, honouring the deceased, with many attendees those who normally make an appearance only at occasions such as weddings and funerals (i.e. the perfect occasion to present the church’s teachings in a way that might stimulate some honest and much-needed reflection).
    (Shoutout to Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture).

    • As I pointed out on Twitter, everything the priest says in the clip that is making the rounds is found in the CCC, Scripture, etc. Was it appropriate? Well, where else, other than at church/Mass, are people going to hear about sin, God’s love (not the sappy, Oprah-type “love”), need for repentance, holiness, etc., etc.? The homily is the sort that I hear in my parish on a regular basis. If that was “heavy-handed,” then I’d hate to think what the teachings of Christ, Peter, Paul, and so many of the Saints would be called!

      • Indeed, truth is heavy-handed. Also, thick-lipped and plain spoken, with garlicky breath and hairy ears, and a wart above its upper lip.

        And no amount of obsequious rationalizing by a highly coiffed, perfumed, liposuctioned bishop will make truth any easier to accept.

        You’d think a bishop would know that.

  5. God Bless Father Sheehy. We need 1,000’s more like him. Very seldom, if ever, do we ever hear a priest call out sin in a homily anymore. So, what are the sheep to do if they’re allowed to run rampant?

  6. Carl above – I’m not saying the priest said anything that’s not accurate. I just question the approach. (I’m not arguing for sappy sermons, which I hear way too many of).

  7. I say bravo to this priest. The reason more priests do not speak on the topic of sin is because weak parishioners run away ( with their wallets) which upsets the Bishops. Too many bishops ( including the top one) have forgotten that humans need to have sin pointed out to them as prohibited.Its well and good to talk about mercy but without the subject of contemporary sin, it is a skewed perspective. Bishops who want a milquetoast sappy approach of “anything goes” will one day be held accountable by God. This priest who spoke up should wear his banning like a badge of honor. The parishioners who left the sermon should be ashamed. Those who liked hearing the sermon should contact the errant Bishop and make their feelings known.If the Bishop doesnt know the position of the church on these basic matters he should resign and apologize to the priest he suspended.

  8. Obviously the bishop is “muzzling the truth in order to appease the people”. Fr. Z. has a commentary on the difference/chasm between the Old Mass and the New (now old) Mass on the Four Last Things. No doubt the good people of Kerry Diocese have been catechized by the “New” Mass these last sixty years. They need to be recatechized. The priest seems to realize this. I’m not sure the bishop does. How to move forward productively?

  9. The clue here is that Bishop Ray Browne was born in 1957, i.e. he too was catechized by the New, now old, Mass (and the media). The priest was no doubt formed by the Old, now new, Mass. Another article in CWR on the fracture in theology looks forward to the arrival of millennial generation bishops. Can’t come soon enough.

    • He explains the Gospel truth in more detail on the John Henry W show. Pray for the lost Leo. Ireland will one day return to being a Holy Land. The Irish are too trusting, till they get pushed to truth, then the gloves are off.

  10. Catholic Unscripted episode 8 just dealt with the Irish incident. I think Gavin Ashenden goes a long way to explaining how Bishop Browne has gotten himself so confused.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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  3. Irish priest reprimanded by bishop for homilies about sin – Catholic World Report – Bold News

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