Fr. Sean Sheehy
A Priest Speaks About Sin — and is “canceled” for It
“The truth hurts — but it sets us free”
Fr. Sean Sheehy, 80, is a native of County Kerry, Ireland, but, like many Irish priests who were sent in past decades to help relieve the priest shortage in the United States, he has spent most of his priestly ministry in the U.S. — most recently in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In 2008, Fr. Sheehy, who had always maintained ties to native country, returned to Ireland and his home of County Kerry to help alleviate Ireland’s own priest shortage of recent years.
By all accounts, his flock in America was sad to see him go; he was noted for his commitment to Catholic education.
His new parishioners in the Irish town of Castlegregory hailed Fr. Sheehy as a tireless community worker who had been particularly active in supporting local charity and developmental groups.
Fr. Sheehy has since retired, and had been “filling in” for the priest at St. Mary’s Church in Listowel, a County Kerry town of fewer than 5,000 people.
And that’s where Fr. Sheehy ran into trouble.
In a late October 2022 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.”
It’s hardly the stuff of heresy, one would assume.
And yet, Bishop Ray Browne of Kerry published a November 1 statement regarding “the offending homilies,” saying that “the views expressed do not represent the Christian position.” He apologized for “the deep upset and hurt caused by the contents of the homilies” given by Fr. Sheehy.
Regarding the rebuke from his bishop, who barred him from saying Mass until the regular priest returns, Sheehy said in an interview he “couldn’t care less, really.”
“As the old saying is, the truth hurts, but it sets us free,” he said. “Jesus, for example, did not come to make people feel good. He came to save people from their sins, and that was actually the Gospel of the Sunday. He said he came to seek and save what was lost; in other words, those people who are lost in sin.”
“And why are people lost in sin? Sometimes they don’t even realize that what they’re doing is a sin. So that’s where the Church’s responsibility kicks in, because the Church has a responsibility to identify what is sin or what isn’t, so people will know what they’re choosing freely,” Sheehy continued.
He claimed the bishop is “muzzling the truth in order to appease people,” and advised him to familiarize himself with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.