Priest won't say sorry for sermon on same-sex marriage vote

Éamon McGee (left): spoke in favour of marriage equality vote

Greg Harkin

A catholic priest has insisted he won't apologise over comments he made in a sermon on gay marriage which sparked a walk-out by parishioners.

Fr John Britto, a Carmelite priest from southern India and now based in the diocese of Raphoe, Co Donegal, criticised Gaelic footballer Éamon McGee for supporting the Yes campaign in the same-sex marriage referendum due to be held in May.

Some members of his congregation at St Mary's Star of the Sea church in Annagry walked out of Saturday night's Mass over his sermon.

Yesterday Raidio Na Gaeltachta reported that Fr Britto had refused to apologise for his opposition to gay marriage during a sermon at 10am Mass.

The station, however, reported that Fr Britto had apologised to Éamon McGee and the Donegal footballer subsequently pulled out of a planned interview on the 'Rónán Beo' show.

However last night the priest said he hadn't issued any apologies for opposing McGee and his views.

Parish priest Fr Michael Herrity, who was at the back of the chapel during last Saturday's sermon, defended Fr Britto.

"He was preaching the Word of God and it was a very good sermon," Fr Herrity told the Irish Independent last night.

"Fr Britto did say a few lines about Éamon McGee and that's what is grabbing the headlines but all he was doing was preaching the position of the Church on gay marriage.

"Fr Britto said he was very disappointed in Éamon McGee and his stance. He didn't say he did not have a right to express his support for the Yes campaign, but that he (Fr Britto) believed it was not right."

Fr Herrity said Fr Britto had a right to express the view of the Church.

"Éamon McGee is from the next parish and I suppose that's why some people may have been upset, but for me it was a good sermon, a very good sermon," said Fr Herrity.

The sermon came during an anniversary Mass for a local woman who died a year ago.

Some members of the family were among those who walked out in protest at Fr Britto's sermon.

When asked about his sermon earlier this week, Fr Britto said: "I speak to the people in church and I only the speak the truth and the Word of God. I don't speak to the media."