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Tuesday 3 October 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Niall Carson US priest Father James Martin speaking at the 2018 world meeting of families in Dublin.
# Father Séan Sheehy
Influential priest says LGBT Catholics are 'as much a part of the Church' as the pope
Father James Martin made the remarks following a controversial homily by Father Séan Sheehy in Kerry.

AN INFLUENTIAL PRIEST, who is a consultant to the Vatican’s communication division, says no group should be “targeted” in the way that the LGBT community was by Father Séan Sheehy.

Recently, Father Séan Sheehy, a retired priest who was deputising for parish priest Fr Declan O’Connor, told parishioners at St Mary’s Church in Listowel that sex between two men or two women is sinful.

Fr Sheehy added: “You rarely hear about sin but it’s rampant. We see it for example in the legislation. We see it in the promotion of abortion, we see it and in the example of this lunatic approach of transgenderism and in promotion of sex between two men and two women. That is sinful. That is mortal sin.”

However, Father James Martin says Fr Sheehy’s comments were both “insulting” and “hurtful”.

Fr Martin is Editor-at-Large of the Jesuit magazine ‘America’ and was appointed by Pope Francis as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.

He is well known for his outreach work to the LGBT community from within the Church, including his book “Building a Bridge” in which he calls for Catholics to show more respect and compassion to the LGBT community.

Martin Scorsese has acted as an executive producer for a documentary based on Fr Martin’s LGBT ministry, also called “Building a Bridge”.

In 2018 Fr Martin, who is half-Irish and has family in Castlebridge in Co Wexford, also delivered a talk in Dublin at the World Meeting of Families festival.

In his speech, he said LGBT Catholics had been “deeply wounded” by the Church and added: “Sadly, many people still believe people choose their sexual orientation, despite the testimony of almost every psychiatrist, biologist, and the lived experience of LGBT people.”

However, he has often received virulent abuse from some Catholics for his outreach work.

In an article for The Washington Post, he revealed the contents of a letter he received for offering support from within the Church to the LGBT community: “You’re leading souls to hell where you will surely reside in a few years.”

In that same article, he said such people “end up trying to be so Catholic that they are barely Christian”.

Speaking to The Journal, Fr Martin said: “To call ‘transgenderism’ lunacy is to say that all transgender people are insane, which is not only untrue but insulting.

“It is not a sin to be LGBT. I am not challenging any Church teaching here. This is simply how God has created some people – even Pope Francis has said that.”

In 2013, Pope Francis told journalists: ”If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Fr Martin also noted: “In fact, the Catechism says that we are called to treat LGBT people with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’.”

While the Catechism of the Catholic Church says “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”, it adds: “They (LGBT people) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Pope Francis re-iterated this in 2016, saying: “I will repeat what the Catechism of the Church says, that they (LGBT people) should not be discriminated against, that they should be respected, accompanied pastorally.”

The pontiff also called on the Church to apologise and seek forgiveness for the way it has treated LGBT people. 

The Bishop of Kerry, Dr Ray Browne, apologised for Fr Sheehy’s homily and said the views expressed he were not representative of Christianity.

“I apologise to all who were offended,” said Bishop Browne.

“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 Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is a Gospel of love. It calls on us all to ever have total respect for one another.”

Fr Martin said it was heartening to see this reaction.

“It’s a reminder that pastoral care for LGBT people varies widely from parish to parish, and from diocese to diocese,” said Fr Martin.

“Bishop Browne was speaking as a pastor not only to LGBT people, but to their friends and family members.”

Fr Martin described Fr Sheehy’s comments as “hurtful”, adding: “In response to people who have been hurt, I would say that the Church is not one priest, and it is certainly not one homily.

“Sometimes I use the analogy of a doctor. If you had a bad experience with one doctor would you give up on the entire medical profession? 

“More bluntly, I say to LGBT people, it’s your Church too. If you’re baptised, then you’re as much a part of the church as your local priest or bishop, or even the Pope. It’s your church too.”

When Fr Martin was asked if Fr Sheehy was simply expressing – however crudely – Church teaching, he replied: “LGBT people are the only people whose lives are framed this way by some Catholic leaders. 

“Yet no one’s life is 100% in conformity with the Gospels, with the Catechism or with church teaching overall. 

“What about Catholics who don’t attend Mass every Sunday? More to the point, what about people who are cruel, or unforgiving, or never give to the poor? 

“These groups are never singled out as ‘sinners’. It’s important to see that no Catholic is perfect. Besides, no group, especially one that is already marginalised in society, deserves to be targeted like this.”

A event was organised for the LGBT community during the main Sunday mass at St Mary’s Church in Listowel yesterday. 

It was in response to Fr Sheehy’s comments and people were encouraged to bring flowers and peaceful messages.

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