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A Mayo priest calls out Yes voters in the middle of Mass

Ballina priest Fr Tom Doherty dedicated his weekend homilies after the recent marriage referendum to reflect on the “immorality” of the Yes vote.

St. Patrick's Church, Ballina
St. Patrick's Church, Ballina

A CATHOLIC PRIEST in Ballina, Co Mayo dedicated both weekend homilies to calling out the members of his congregation who had voted Yes in the referendum on same-sex marriage on 22 May.

Fr Tom Doherty, the curate of the parish who was ordained in November 2013, told the congregation that people who voted Yes had given ‘two fingers’ to the Catholic Church.

He used the analogy of ‘barbarians at the gate’ to describe the result of the vote, and spoke about the ‘immorality’ of the referendum.

The constituency of Mayo voted narrowly in favour of the referendum – 52% Yes versus 48% No.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, parishioner Louise Heneghan (who was present at both masses on 23 and 24 May) said that “people are still not happy about this, there’s a lot of anger with the locals still”.

“Nobody saw it coming. It was the condemnatory tone he used,” Heneghan said.

He accused those who voted Yes as putting two fingers up to the church, and told us to ‘recite the creed, if you think it has anything to offer you’.
There was no real coherence to it though. He mentioned ‘barbarians at the gate’, and the immorality of Yes voters, but he gave no reason as to why he felt that way.

Heneghan said that the priest asked churchgoers who had voted Yes to stand up during his Gospel homilies.

However this has been disputed by other people in the area.

Some parishoners are believed to have walked out of the church in response to the comments by the priest.

Fr Doherty has been curate of Ballina parish for the last 18 months. Efforts to contact him by TheJournal.ie were not successful.

In an interview with the Western People, the priest defended his homilies as “not meant to condemn”.

“It was meant rather to invite us all to reflect on how we as a church will find our feet in a rapidly changing society,” he said.

I drew upon some historical parallels to highlight the importance and the need for mature reflection moving forward.

Regarding his suggestion that parishioners recite the creed if they felt it had anything to offer them, Fr Doherty said “it was simply an invitation to people to pray the creed in a meaningful way at a  time when our church was awakening to the challenges which lie ahead of her”.

Despite the fallout from the sermons, Heneghan does not think there will be any lasting repercussions for Doherty from the incident.

People are disgruntled alright, and they’ll voice their opinions, but I don’t think Fr Doherty will face trouble, no.

“This is something that will blow over,” she said.

Read: Feeling of “bereavement” at gay marriage result – says leader of Ireland’s Catholics

Read: ‘It’s time, ma’ – The marriage referendum gets the John Oliver treatment

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