Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Cork priest will no longer work as school chaplain after inviting guest speaker who criticised homosexuality

Cork school apologises after guest speaker launches tirade against 'gender  benders'

A CORK priest will no longer work as a school chaplain after a guest speaker at a school Mass criticised divorce and used the term “gender benders” while questioning Ireland’s Eurovision selection of a non-binary artist.

A spokesperson for the Catholic diocese of Cork and Ross has told The Echo that Fr Michael O’Leary, parish priest of Wilton, will no longer be providing chaplaincy services to Gaelscoil Uí Riada, which is the only school in the parish.

It follows an incident in which students at the Cork primary school, which is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross, Fintan Gavin, heard a guest speaker make controversial comments at a special Mass at St Joseph’s Church in Wilton last Tuesday.

Towards the end of the ceremony, celebrant and parish priest Fr Michael O’Leary invited a guest speaker to address the congregation from the altar.

It is understood that the speaker had been expected to talk about intergenerational faith issues, but instead spoke for almost 20 minutes on perceived ills afflicting Irish society.

In his address, the speaker is understood to have said society is falling apart and, he claimed, some people have used divorce to manage “chaos” in their lives.

He also criticised homosexuality, condemning the selection of non-binary artist Bambie Thug to represent Ireland in the Eurovision, using the phrase “gender benders” during his talk.

A number of people walked out of the Mass in progress, and the school principal and board of management chairman subsequently wrote a letter of apology to parents.

“As you are aware, a person not associated with the school was given the opportunity to address the congregation during the Mass,” school principal Breanndán Ó Gréilligh and board of management chairman Séamus Ó Rinn wrote.

“This happened without our prior knowledge, and we deeply and sincerely regret that this happened and the upset caused.


A meeting was later held between Fr O’Leary, the board of management of Gaelscoil Uí Riada, and Bishop Gavin, at which it was agreed that Fr O’Leary would no longer provide chaplaincy services for the school.

A spokesperson for the Catholic diocese of Cork and Ross told The Echo that “Fr O’Leary has recognised that it’s best for the school that he step back from that role”.

The spokesperson said Wilton parish is one in a ‘family’ of four parishes, and the chaplaincy of Gaelscoil Uí Riada “will be provided by priests from the other parishes and lessons about guest speakers have been learned”.

They added that “remarks attributed to the speaker at the school Mass were the speaker’s own personal opinions. The Board of Management and the priest have met with Bishop Fintan and steps have been taken to ensure that this does not happen again. This has been communicated to all families.” 

 The controversy comes as Pope Francis has made what have been interpreted as conciliatory statements toward LGBT people, indicating last year that “pastoral charity” meant same sex unions could be blessed on a case-by-case basis, saying “Pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing . . . that do not convey a mistaken concept of marriage”.

The Pope has since said transgender people can be baptised, serve as witnesses and become godparents in some cases.

Pope Francis has stated that being gay is not in itself a “sin”, although he remains of the view that homosexual acts are, as is all sexual activity outside of traditional marriage.

A spokesperson for Gaelscoil Uí Riada said the school and its board of management would not be making a comment at this time. Efforts to contact Fr O’Leary for comment were unsuccessful.