St Michael's Church
A former Athy curate, Fr Brendan Kealy, has clarified his position over a married gay couple's leading role in St Michael's choir in Athy.
In a letter written to the editor of The Catholic Voice newspaper, Anthony Murphy, Fr Kealy explained his position after he participated in the mass at which the couple, Jacinta O'Donnell and Geraldine Flanagan, returned after a brief resignation to lead the choir.
The couple claimed they felt 'pressured' by Anthony Murphy to step down after they got married last July, in an interview with KFM earlier this month.
Mr Murphy confirmed to the Leinster Leader that he asked the newly married couple to rethink their position as leaders of the choir and Ministers of the Eucharist because they 'contradicted the teachings of the catholic church'.
However after an outpouring of support locally for the couple , they decided to return to their leadership roles for 6pm mass on Saturday September 10 and received a round of applause from the congregation at the time.
A video of the mass was circulated online afterwards showing the support for the couple.
The main purpose of the evening mass, held on Saturday September 10, was to mark Fr Tim Hannon's 50th anniversary as a priest and to mark Fr Kealy's departure from Athy parish where he served for the past three years.
In his letter Fr Kealy states that his intentions first and foremost was to celebrate the Eucharist and also in appreciation of Fr Tim Hannon's 50th anniversary and to mark his own departure from the parish.
Fr Kealy states that in his opinion the mass was 'hijacked to support the cause of same-sex marriage'.
He goes on to write: “I was not present to promote or condone same-sex marriage or what appeared to be the apparent and victorious return of our musical directors, which seemed to become the focus of the evening. In my opinion, the mass was hijacked to support the cause of same-sex marriage, which is clearly in breach of Catholic Church teachings.”
“I felt Saturday evening's (September 10) principle purpose of the mass was grossly lost and I regret my participation simply because my presence as a priest appeared to give credence to surrounding events, which was misleading.
"I participated in the mass with good intentions. I was not consulted in any form or manner regarding the girls (Jacinta O'Donnell and Geraldine Flanagan) renewed presence on the sanctuary to lead the choir that evening. “
Fr Kealy goes onto say that he can understand non-practicing Catholics ignoring Church rules but for practicing Catholics do so was 'mind boggling'.
The choir did not sing at Mass last Saturday evening in Athy and it has been speculated locally that the couple, Jacinta O'Donnell and Geraldine Flanagan, have left the choir again.
The Leader contacted Jacinta O'Donnell about the issue, she declined to comment.
The Leader also contacted Annette O'Donnell, Communications Officer for the Dublin Diocese under which Athy comes under, who also declined to comment.
The full letter outlining Fr Kealy's position, which is published on the Catholic Voice website is as follows :
I write to clarify my position regarding my appearance on a video taken in Athy church. I was one of the five priests, a curate, con-celebrating Mass in St Michael the Archangel’s Church Athy, last Saturday evening on the 10th September 2016.
My intentions first and foremost was to celebrate the Eucharist which is the source and summit of our community’s Christian life. This Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was also in appreciation of Fr Tim Hannon’s 50th Anniversary of his Priestly Ordination and to mark my own departure from the parishes I have happily served over the past three years.
I was not present to promote or condone same-sex ‘marriage’ or what appeared to be the apparent triumphant and victorious return of our musical directors which seemed to become the focus of the evening. In my opinion, the Mass was hijacked to support the cause of same-sex ‘marriage’ which is clearly in breach of Catholic Church teachings.
How does this make sense within the Catholic Church?
This breach was displayed openly and in a very public manner from the holy sanctuary. I felt very uncomfortable about this as I had not given my blessing to such a union. I am not been harsh but simply following the teachings of the Church, that we all serve.
The ladies in question have a very important leadership role in the Church but decided to enter into a civil same-sex marriage which blatantly contradicts and challenges the teachings of their Catholic Church, and the instruction of Pope Francis. To me, this defies belief ? Is it not a contradiction to our faith? How does this make sense within the Catholic Church?
Commercial companies have best business practices and policies they expect members to follow and if one or more blatantly breach these practices - it would not be acceptable. Likewise you don’t walk into your local branded supermarket and expect to encounter staff behind the counter wearing another branded supermarket’s T-shirt informing shoppers there is better value down the road? Would that be considered responsible leadership within such a company? I believe we must lead by example as did Jesus Christ who taught us; Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me (Matt 16:24). To deny oneself is to do the will of God, here on earth as it is in Heaven (Matt 6:10), and not to follow our own human will and standards.
As Catholics let’s not fool ourselves on how this works
In Baptism through our spiritual rebirth, we are privileged through the gift of faith, to enter into a new spiritual family with God as our eternal and spiritual Father, marked for eternal life. We should understand that to follow Jesus is to belong to this new family, a family with stronger ties than human flesh and blood. We enter into a new order of loyalty and commitment to him before each other. It is a family bound in love and obedience to the Word of God. That Word became Flesh manifesting and revealing itself in Jesus who came to define Truth and instruct us how to live our lives according to God’s will: and not our own will. Pride can prevent us surrendering to divine will.
I felt Saturday evening’s principal purpose of the Mass was grossly lost and I regret my participation simply because my presence as a priest appeared to give credence to surrounding events, which was misleading. I participated in the Mass with good intentions. I was not consulted in any form or manner regarding the girls renewed presence on the sanctuary to lead the choir that evening.
I can understand non-practicing Catholics ignoring Church rules but practicing Catholics to ignore them is mind-boggling? Surely, it makes sense for practicing Catholics to be in full agreement with the teachings of their Church? St. John Paul II in conjunction with the future Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2003 that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions and where such unions are given the legal status and rights that belong to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. My position is very clear, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman only.
I write this letter because as a Catholic priest and a spiritual father, I have a moral obligation and duty to express my opposition to same sex unions, regardless if it is recognised by civil law, or by certain members within a community who ignore divine law. I was anointed to give witness to the Truth, based on Jesus’ teachings. The institution of marriage in God’s eyes, is exclusively reserved between a man and a woman. Why? Because the Catholic Church teaches us that God’s plan of sexual complementarity, or a relationship in which two or more different things improve each other’s qualities and fruitfulness, belong to the very nature of marriage.
Given the natural complementarity between a man and a woman and their natural procreative potential of their union through marriage, God does not allow same-sex unions to be any way comparable to his creation or interpretation of marriage and family. Men and women are equal as persons and complementary as male and female. Through marriage, a man and woman use the “sexual faculty” to become one flesh and potentially produce children. This is impossible to enact naturally in a same-sex ‘marriage’ union. Our bodies are gifts from God.
Sometimes we forget, or choose not to understand, that in the sacrament of baptism our bodies were transformed into God’s temple where He lives and dwells as our divine Guest. St Paul wrote that; We are not our own; we were bought with a great price. So we are called to glorify and bear God in our body (1Cor 6:20). As responsible adults we have to come to our senses (Lk 15:17) and get real. When we call God, Our Father (Lk 11:2), we are called to act like his true spiritual daughters and sons. If we are pleased to call him Father, let him in turn be pleased to call us his children by not insulting his teachings and instructions.
It may appear as an old argument but it is still very valid in today’s world, we should live like the temples of God we are, so that it can be seen that God lives in us. No act of ours should be unworthy of the Spirit. All our thoughts and actions should be heavenly and spiritual. Jesus said; Those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be despised (1Sam 2:30).
Each individual has their own vocation however, priests, nuns, religious and all gay people are called to a high order to serve God exercising chastity - abstaining from sexual activity - and remaining celibate - by not marrying - as a sacrifice to our Father. This can only be done by collaborating with God’s grace, dispensed by Mary. Certain people find this absurd because sex is the source and summit of their lives. People including priests and religious who publicly denounce the divine gift of chastity and celibacy betray their identity and vocation - deprived by God of his spiritual sight and hearing. To put forward the argument that a Catholic same-sex ‘married’ couple may be living as sisters or brothers distracts from the fact that they live in a state of disobedience and non-recognition of God’s divine law. Not mine but thy will be done (Luke 22:42). Jesus is the altar of his own sacrifice and we are created by God to be spiritual altars on which we are called to offer the sacrifice of a holy and pure life.
Everyone is welcome in the Catholic Church
It is never too late to make a radical change in one’s life. God the Father in his divine mercy constantly awaits the return of the prodigal child. A gay man or woman does not offend God or the Church, it is acts of sinful and selfish behaviour that offends God. Our bodies are created to give worship to our Creator and our lives become an act of adoration in spirit and truth. To defile the body is to hold the whip again at Calvary, to be the one stripping Jesus at the foot of the Cross.
God’s purpose in adopting us as his spiritual sons and daughters is to transform all our relationships where we enter into a new order of loyalty and commitment to Him, first and foremost. In certain circumstances people become consumed with its efforts not to offend certain members of society as a priority while ignoring any offence suffered by God our Creator. We are called to live our lives as true disciples, in anticipation for the next life to come. We are all called to be victors over many trials, tests and temptations in this valley of tears. It will be well worth it when we, with God’s grace, we qualify to share his divine life in heaven. Faith is our response to God’s call. Like Mary the Mother of God, each of us are called to be sacred vessels for the Word made Flesh within us. This is no accidental occurrence as we were all chosen from eternity in the mind of God, and brought forth into human existence, from our mother’s womb and prepared by God for himself so that our souls magnify the teachings of the Church by living our faith.
Yours faithfully in Christ, Fr Brendan Kealy