Irish Priest Punished by His Bishop for Preaching Catholic Truth

Fr. Sean Sheehy

Fr. Sean Sheehy is a retired Catholic priest of the Diocese of Kerry in Ireland. Recently, while the pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Listowel was on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Fr. Sheehy stepped in to cover for him. In a sermon about sin, Fr. Sheehy gave examples of sinful acts, including abortion, transgenderism, and homosexual acts. Fr. Sheehy said, “You rarely hear about sin, but it’s rampant. We see it in the promotion of abortion. We see it for example in this lunatic approach of transgenderism … [and] … 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.”

Fr. Sheehy called for sinners to repent, and for Catholics to call sinners to repentance. He preached, “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.” A priest preaching that people who remain in sin will suffer the tortures of hell.

Fr. Sheehy referenced the upcoming Solemnity of All Saints: “When we honor the saints on the first of this coming month, we honor people who are saints. Why are they saints? Because they repented and because they sought forgiveness. As somebody said one time, heaven is full of converted sinners.” It’s good that Fr. Sheehy did not claim that saints are saints because they led perfect lives, which is the stereotypically understanding of sanctity. No, he explained clearly that saints are those who repent of their sins and ask God for forgiveness.

So far, everything Fr. Sheehy preached was perfectly in line with Catholic moral teaching. Unfortunately for Fr. Sheehy, it is not perfectly in line with the morals of the dominant culture and, as he would discovery, with the cowardly lack of Catholic conviction of his own bishop.

Bishop Ray Browne is the bishop of the Diocese of Kerry. Bishop Browne likely heard a number of complaints from those in his diocese who still regard themselves as Catholic but have little regard for Catholic moral teaching. Bishop Kerry acted quickly to resolve the dispute between a priest who courageously proclaims the truth of Catholic moral teaching and those Catholics who have rejected that teaching and demand that Fr. Sheehy be silenced. What did Bishop Browne do? He issued an apology to those Fr. Sheehy had offended by his homilies and he forbade Fr. Sheehy from celebrating Mass. In his apology, Bishop Browne wrote, “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.” Bishop Browne wrote, “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.”

Before I go farther, I would like to address that much has been made by Fr. Sheehy’s critics of the fact that he testified as a character witness for a man who was tried and convicted of sexually abusing a woman. Based on the articles I have read, Fr. Sheehy clearly did not believe that the man was guilty. Shortly after the man was convicted, Fr. Sheehy resigned his position as pastor of a parish. Of course, none of this speaks to the rightness or wrongness of Fr. Sheehy’s message in his homilies at St. Mary’s in Listowel. It may mean that Fr. Sheehy was a poor judge of this man’s character, but says nothing about the truth of Catholic teaching or of Fr. Sheehy’s responsibility to preach Catholic teaching.

I would like to make a couple of points about Bishop Browne’s statement.

First, Bishop Browne is simply giving false testimony when he claims that recognizing abortion, transgenderism, and homosexual acts as sinful is “not the Christian position.” It most certainly is the position of Catholic moral teaching. Perhaps Bishop Browne could benefit from a review of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The relevant paragraphs on abortion are 2270-2275. The relevant paragraphs on transgenderism are 2333, 2393, 364, and 2297. The relevant paragraphs on homosexual acts are 2357-2359.

Second, while Bishop Browne is correct in asserting that “The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a Gospel of love and ever proclaims the dignity of every human person,” there is nothing in what Fr. Sheehy preached that counters this. Bishop Browne, however, seems to be implying that condemning sinful acts is the same as failing to love and respect the one who engages in those acts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus Himself instructs us to admonish the sinner in hopes that he will repent. In the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matt 18:15-17). The point here is not to accept the sinful act, or pretend that the sinful act is not sinful. It is to admonish the sinner in hopes that he will repent and return to the fold. This is the point, too, of treating him “as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” In short, Jesus is recommending having nothing to do with the one who has sinned in hopes that he will come to his senses and repent.

St. Paul recommends admonishing the sinner, while being careful to avoid sin yourself. In his Letter to the Galatians, he writes, “Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted” (Gal 6:1). In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul recommends excommunication as a medicinal remedy for the intransigent sinner: “It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife. And you are inflated with pride. Should you not rather have been sorrowful? The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst. I, for my part, although absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as if present, pronounced judgment on the one who has committed this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus: when you have gathered together and I am with you in spirit with the power of the Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:1-5). To deliver the man to Satan is to send him out of the Christian community into the world, which is ruled by Satan. But understand that the whole point of the judgment against the sinner is “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

Bishop Browne seems to be under the impression that respecting the dignity of the other means keeping quiet about their sins. But this isn’t what Jesus or St. Paul said at all. It is, however, a reflection of the dominant culture, which holds that abortion, transgenderism, and homosexual acts are not sins at all. It also holds with the popular notion among some Catholics that Jesus’ admonition not to judge (Matt 7:1-2) means we cannot call sin sin, or we cannot call the sinner a sinner, or we cannot admonish the sinner – because to do any of these is to judge the other. This is incorrect. When Jesus is instructing us not to judge, He means not to judge a person to heaven or hell. That is not our job. That belongs only to God. But if we cannot call sin sin, then we cannot condemn the murderer, the rapist, or the extortionist. Jesus was confronted by some men who brought to Him a woman caught in adultery, demanding that He rule on what should be done with her, because Moses ruled that she should be stoned. Jesus ruled that those among them who are without sin cast the first stone. They all left, beginning with the older ones. Jesus then turned to the woman and told her that He did not condemn her. Then He said to her, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). Jesus did not condemn the woman. But, neither did He pretend that her adultery was not a sin, and neither did He pretend that a life of continued sin would not lead to the woman’s damnation, otherwise He would not have told her to sin no more.

The bottom line is, Bishop Browne condemned Fr. Sheehy’s sermons because Fr. Sheehy rightly identified as morally wrong what most in our culture, including many Catholics, regard as morally right. Had Fr. Sheehy rightly condemned human trafficking or racism, his sermons would have been praised by his bishop. This is an example of a bishop taking his cues from the culture rather than the gospel.

In the Book of Revelation, John receives a vision of Jesus, who instructs him to write letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. In His letter to the church in Ephesus, he praises them for hating a group called the Nicolaitans, while in His letter to the church in Pergamum, he condemns them for the fact that some follow the teachings of the Nicolaitans. Who were the Nicolaitans? The Nicolaitans were compromisers. During the early decades of the Church, there was controversy over whether Gentile converts had to follow the Mosaic Law. In other words, did Gentiles have to become Jews first in order to become Christians? The apostles gathered in Jerusalem and, in what is called the Council of Jerusalem recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 15, declared that Gentiles need not become Jews, but should refrain from eating food that had been offered to idols and also refrain from sexual immorality. Christians also faced the question of making sacrifices to the pagan gods of the Roman Empire, a practice that was regarded as a civic duty. Refusal to do so had social and economic consequences. The Nicolaitans were a group of Christians who practiced and recommended to others that they disregard the teaching of the apostles at the Council of Jerusalem and also that participation in the worship of the pagan gods was acceptable. In short, they taught that Christians should go along to get along. Sprinkling a little incense at a pagan god’s shrine was not worth losing your job over, much less being forced to pay a fine or even find yourself in jail. Go along to get along.

Bishop Browne is like those Nicolaitans. He either believes that abortion, transgenderism, and homosexual acts are not sins, or he believes preaching the fullness of the gospel, which includes the moral teachings of the Church, is not worth it if it means offending those secularists and those Catholics who reject Church teaching. And he recommends this attitude and practice to his confreres, even going to the point of punishing Fr. Sheehy for the audacity to preach Catholic teaching. This cannot be the future of the Church. Those Catholics, especially those bishops, priests, deacons and religious, who embrace the whole teaching of Jesus Christ, must not be afraid to preach the truth with passion. When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth? (Lk 18:8b). Let’s pray so!

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

15 thoughts on “Irish Priest Punished by His Bishop for Preaching Catholic Truth

  1. such anger and intolerance has no place at the altar . What this man said is so far from the Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ . It was a grave error of judgement to weaponise the pulpit in such a crude manner . I pray he realises his mistake and asks for forgiveness . There is enough hate in this God forsaken world without priests joining in . Peace and Love in Christ’s name
    thelaypope.com

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    1. I couldn’t disagree more. Fr. Sheehy simply identified as sins what the Church has taught are sins from day one. Ministers of the Church ought to never fear or hesitate to speak the truth. What else are we to do? The love and mercy of Jesus Christ calls sinners to repent, including you and me. Are you arguing that sin is to be ignored by the Church, or that sin should be called righteousness? This is not the message of the Gospels.

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  2. What else are we to do ? We are to Love We are to Love Because that is what Christ commanded us to do . It is hardly surprising that people walked out when this priest was raging . These issues are complex and multi faceted and the altar is not the place for such condemnation of people whose lives are difficult and complicated . The altar is a sacred place and should , in Christ’s name , resonate Peace , Mercy , Tolerance and Love not blind condemnation . If this priest feels the need to condemn let him do it beyond the altar . I believe there are many social media platforms which would embrace his callous indifference of those he condemns

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    1. Loving the sinner means calling them to repentance. That is all through the Gospels and the message of Christ, who came to heal sinners and reconcile us with the Father. Did Christ live and die for nothing? Is it your belief that loving people means ignoring their sins, or maybe even calling their sins righteousness? Where is that in the Gospels? Where is that in the teachings of Jesus?

      You call speaking the truth “raging.” I’m not surprised people walked out, either. Many Catholics have abandoned the truth of salvation by Christ and have embraced a soteriology of salvation by nice. Being nice means not offending anyone, which means not speaking the truth about sin being sin. “These issues are complex and multifaceted,” you say. Interesting that Jesus and Paul didn’t think so. Neither did the Church Fathers. It’s advantageous to call these “issues” difficult and multifaceted, for then we can justify not calling them what they are. Abortion is killing people. Homosexual acts are acts contrary to God’s revealed will for sexual love. Transgenderism is a denial of God’s created order and a refusal to assist people who are terribly ill by pretending that their mental illness is simply an expression of their truth. It seems your version of Christian love is to leave people in their sins and to have them suffer the consequences of their sins, both in this world and in the world to come.

      What do you mean when you say that the altar is a sacred place and should resonate tolerance? Should we tolerate lies? Should we tolerate evil? Should we tolerate the killing of innocents because the lives of those who desire their deaths are “complicated”?

      Fr. Sheehy condemned no one. He spoke the truth. He called sin sin. People make their choices.

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      1. Think about what you are saying for Heavens sake. You believe that those faced with the tragedy of an unwanted pregnancy “desire the deaths “ of innocents

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      2. Earlier today Independent.ie reported Father Sheehy had come to the defence of a convicted sex offender in 2009, and even burst into the courtroom during his trial to shake his hand.

        Why didn’t the priest condemn this

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      3. I suspect, too, that Fr. Sheehy didn’t condemn sexual abuse in his homilies because no one is trying to make sexual abuse legal. He spoke of sins that are supported by law, and abortion, transgenderism, and homosexual acts are legal. That was his point in condemning those particular sins.

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  3. You call the conception of a child a “tragedy” simply because it was not planned? I guess that says it all. Never thought of considering myself a “tragedy.” I remember taking care of an infant boy who was brought into our emergency room (I’m a nurse), and the mother telling me that he was conceived ten years after she had her tubes tied. Talk about unplanned! Even still, she didn’t think of her son as a “tragedy.” She loved him. There are many single mothers in my family. All of those pregnancies were unplanned. But no one considered the existence of their children a “tragedy.” I believe that many women choose abortion because they’re convinced they have no other option. Our society has convinced them of this. Catholics like those who walked out on Fr. Sheehy have convinced them that it’s okay, or even a righteous deed. They have become convinced that an unplanned pregnancy is a tragedy. It’s no surprise why? Even still, the goal of abortion is the death of the child. Why is that so hard for you to accept?

    Did you even read my post? I already addressed Fr. Sheehy’s support for the convicted sex offender. I suspect Fr. Sheehy didn’t condemn the man because he didn’t think he was guilty. I seriously doubt that Fr. Sheehy believes that sexual abuse is a righteous deed. Or perhaps he believed at the time that he should be loving and tolerant! Funny that you think Fr. Sheehy should not condemn abortion, transgenderism, or homosexual acts, but you think he should condemn sexual abuse. This suggests, as I suspected, that it isn’t Fr. Sheehy’s condemnation of sin, per se, that has caused you such offense, but the sins that Fr. Sheehy condemned in his homilies. Or perhaps that he even called those particular acts sins.

    I notice that you’ve decided not to address the crux of my arguments or answer the questions I’ve asked.

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    1. Do you wilfully mis interpret my words .Yes it is a tragedy if it results in the termination of the pregnancy .
      This priest doesn’t condemn sexual abuse because no one is trying to make it legal . Are you serious ! You suggest legality has a baring on sinfulness Nobody is trying to make rape legal so does that mean it’s not sinful and this priest wouldn’t condemn it from the pulpit . What about murder ? Before I fully respond to your post can you respond to this

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      1. In your previous comment, “tragedy” described “unwanted pregnancy,” not the abortion of the child. If you want me to interpret your words according to what you mean in your head, you’ll have to actually express in your writing what you mean in your head. I only have your words to work with. I can’t read your mind.

        In his homilies, Fr. Sheehy specifically addressed sins that were supported by law. He actually said so in his homilies, lamenting the fact that these three particular sins are supported by law, that they are legal. Quite obviously, this does not mean that those sins he did not mention are not sins. Neither does it mean that other sins that are legal are not sins. This is common English. Murder and rape are examples of the law proscribing sinful acts, so the civil law is consistent with God’s moral law. Abortion, transgenderism, and homosexual acts are examples of the law allowing acts that are sinful, so the civil law is not consistent with God’s moral law. This was Fr. Sheehy’s point and complaint.

        I’m wondering now if, not only have you not read my post, but you haven’t listened to Fr. Sheehy’s recorded homily, either. Otherwise, you would know all this, and we wouldn’t have to waste our time on it. Also, I already addressed this matter, as well, very clearly in my last comment. Perhaps you should take some time to read my post and listen to the recording of the crucial part of Fr. Sheehy’s homily, which is available all over the internet.

        I’ve addressed your points and answered your questions, but you haven’t yet addressed mine or answered my questions.

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      2. Did you edit your comment, changing “unplanned” pregnancy to “unwanted” pregnancy? That’s not honest, especially after I replied to “unplanned” pregnancy. In any case, it doesn’t change my point. The child conceived in an “unwanted” pregnancy is as much a child as it is in an “unplanned” pregnancy. Abortion kills a child, regardless of whether that child is unplanned or unwanted. I think most mothers know this, as much as society has attempted to convince them otherwise. I know that abortionists know this.

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      3. Yeah, I think you did. But it matters not.

        Yes, it is appalling that there are those who desire the deaths of innocents. Your pretended naivete on the matter is unbecoming one as experienced as you are (assuming you are older than, say, twenty).

        So, are you unwilling or unable to address my points and answer my questions? I’ll assume you are since you’ve had ample opportunity and have chosen not to. In that case, I’ll move on. We can pray for each other, for the conversion of sinners, and for the courage of ministers of the gospel to speak the truth boldly and with passion, even when that means offending people, or breaking the peace, or is interpreted as unloving and intolerant. It is never poor judgement to speak the truth of Christ.

        “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three” (Lk 12:51-52).

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      4. You persist in your stomach churning assertion that there are those who actually desire the deaths of innocents … how appalling …. I doubt that there is a single woman inn Earth who desires the termination of a pregnancy . Sadly There will be many reasons for a woman to have an abortion but desire isn’t one of them . It may surprise you when I tell you that I am pro life . I believe that conception is sacred. I would do anything to help a woman to change her mind if she was considering abortion …. Apart from one thing … I would not force her …. I would try to persuade her with Love, advice , compassion , guidance , joy and mercy . I appreciate the depth of pain you feel over abortion but your pain manifests itself in anger bordering on hate . You can quote whatever crude extracts you want from the bible but they are flawed and corrupted if they are not based on Christ’s infinite Love and Mercy for us and that includes women who find themselves faced with the tragedy of abortion .

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      5. And there it is. If I don’t affirm them, I must hate them. If I don’t affirm the decisions others makes, I must hate them. If I judge their decisions contrary to God’s revealed will, according to the Scriptures and Church teaching, I must hate them.

        Jesus’ mission was not to call others to repentance and reconciliation with the Father, for that would imply that they are in need of repentance and that they are alienated from the Father. But God loves them, which can only mean that He affirms their life decisions and there is no need for repentance. If there are any Scriptures that suggest that God does not affirm everyone and the decisions they make, or that one must repent of one’s sins or stop sinning (and they are numerous), it must be flawed and corrupted. Love means being nice, being tolerant, and not offending. Jesus came to teach a theology of salvation by nice. If you are nice, you’ll get to heaven. If you are mean, you’ll go to hell. To call sin sin is the worst possible thing one could do, for it implies that God doesn’t love the sinner. All those Scriptures that proclaim that God loves the sinner and calls them to repentance are flawed and corrupted. For instance, we must keep in the Gospel of John’s story of the woman caught in adultery Jesus’ promise to her, “Neither do I condemn you,” and excise His admonition “Now go, and sin no more.” The first is affirming, the second is judging. The first is loving, the second is hateful. It is flawed corrupted and must have been put there by someone who hates women!

        You are a Marcionist, embracing those Scriptures that you like, and rejecting those you don’t like. To suggest that there are Scriptures that are flawed and corrupted because they don’t reflect your personal take on Jesus is the highest arrogance.

        You are no longer making arguments. You are simply proclaiming your Gospel and making accusations. I don’t follow your Gospel. No one is saved by your Gospel. We are saved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ as given to us by His Church, the Church of the Apostles. There is no other name on earth by which men are saved.

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