C: Men’s Rosary Ireland

Support for Fr. Séan Sheehy as he leads public prayer gathering in Tralee

Fr Séan Sheehy, the Kerry-based Catholic priest who found himself in the eye of a storm over the content of a recent homily he gave to parishioners in St Mary’s Church in Listowel, was photographed attending a ‘Men’s Rosary’ prayer event over the weekend.

The initiative, which calls on a movement of Catholic men to publicly make reparation and repentance to God on the first Saturday of every month, held a public rosary in Tralee, Kerry, on Saturday afternoon. 

The Rosary, held regularly on streets across Ireland, has spread nationwide and also around the world, according to organisers. It started in Poland, where every first Saturday of the month, crowds of men would gather to pray in up to 25 towns and cities. 

Fr Sheehy, 80, attended the Men’s Rosary in Tralee on Saturday, with groups including Kerry Life and Family thanking him for being present. Men, as well as women and children, were pictured attending the prayer service.

“Great turnout today for men’s rosary in Tralee. Thanks to all who organized it and especially to Fr Sean Sheehy for his beautiful inspiring reflections on the rosaries,” the local pro-life group said. 

On Twitter, a clip of Fr Sheehy leading the prayer service on his knees at the Square in Tralee was posted by Kerry journalist Jerry O’Sullivan:

 

“He’s not going away, is he?” one user wrote underneath the video. Many people in the comments shared their support for the priest, with one user writing: “Nice to see some decent people praying along with him”.

One Galway-based outreach claimed that “Fr Sheehy and other Catholics praying the Rosary are getting fantastic support”.

There has, however, been severe and ongoing backlash in the media to a homily delivered to Sunday Mass Goers, during which the priest, who has spent time working in the US, preached that practising Catholics have a responsibility to “seek out those who are lost”. 

“You have a responsibility to call people to an awareness that sin is destructive, sin is detrimental, and sin will lead us to hell […] Heaven is full of converted sinners”, Fr Sheehy said, as he spoke about the “lunacy” of some approaches to transgenderism, as well as the immorality of abortion.

The Bishop of Kerry apologised, stating that Fr Sheehy was not “representing the Christian position”, yet many commentators, including secular voices, have pointed out that what Fr Sheehy said was in fact in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with Pope Francis’s comments pointing out that the Church “cannot bless sin” in response to a question about same-sex unions. 

There was also a protest at St. Mary’s Church in Listowel as parishioners filed in for Mass on Sunday. Taking to Twitter, Kerry Greens posted a photo of protestors who said they were there “to support those hurt by the recent preaching from the pulpit”.

Fr Sheehy’s appearance at the Tralee event comes as he received public backing from prominent west Belfast priest Fr Paddy McCafferty. Speaking to the Sunday World, Fr McCafferty said he was left “speechless” by the Bishop of Kerry’s apology.

The parish priest of Corpus Christi Parish, who recently spoke to Gript about the epidemic of drugs and violence sweeping his community, said that Fr Sheehy was “only saying what the Church teaches”.

He also said the decision from Bishop Browne to apologise amounted to “utter nonsense”.

“It is utter nonsense (to apologise),” he said, “shock horror priest teaches what the church stands for,” he told the Sunday paper, after Fr Sheehy hit headlines for stating that promotion of homosexuality and abortion were among mortal sins.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Fr Sheehy said he received a warm welcome at the prayer gathering.

“I got a very nice reception from the faithful Catholic today. There was about 30 men present, as well as some women and children. It was prayers for people who live and are faithful to the Christian life. Prayer is always peaceful and I enjoy praying with others. It is called the Monthly Men’s Rosary because it was initiated by men. It is celebrated internationally each month”.

Fr Sheehy said that while he is “disappointed” that he has been stopped from saying Mass in Kerry by the Bishop, he insisted he will resume saying mass at his home in a personal capacity, something he has been doing for some time since he retired.

“Of course, it is disappointing I am no longer permitted by the bishop to celebrate Mass. But I will still celebrate mass. I already do so in my home and I will continue to do that, of course I will. People often come to my home for Mass. That will continue”.

He told the Independent that the source of his disappointment is mainly because being stopped from celebrating Mass means he will not be able to fill in for other priests when they are sick or unavailable to parishioners.

“I am mostly disappointed for the other priests. I won’t be allowed to fill in for them when they are sick. I am no longer allowed to provide cover. That is a real shame, for them,” he said.

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