Tuesday 15 October 2019

Priest defends comment at First Holy Communion

Fr Martin McVeigh.
Fr Martin McVeigh.

Alison Comyn

Clogherhead parish priest Fr Martin McVeigh says parents were entitled to walk out of their child's communion mass if they didn't want to hear him talk about the abortion referendum.

He was speaking after some parents objected to his comments during the Sunday ceremony.

Fr McVeigh says it was not his intention to spoil or disrupt the day, but he said he 'did not spoil it, those who walked out with their children did'.

'I wanted to make a personal statement, which was in line with the Church's teachings, and it was not well received by some, but not all,' Fr McVeigh told the Drogheda Independent.

'I just gave my reasons why I was voting no, and why I felt my parishioners as decent and compassionate people should do the same thing.'

Dozens of parents left the church before the end of their child's communion mass, after Fr McVeigh addressed them about Friday's vote, including details of how formed a child is in the womb at 12 weeks.

'It was totally inappropriate to start talking about it on their special day, and I just wasn't sitting there listening to it,' said Keth Delaney from Clogherhead, whose daughter was making her communion.

'It might be the church's opinion, but it should not be said in front of children, and there is no place for it at that mass.'

Keith said it was after the children had been given their first communion, that Fr Mcveigh walked down the aisle and started talking to parents.

'He had told us earlier he wanted to talk to us and the children were to talk amongst themselves, and that's when he began lecturing us on abortion and on how wrong it was to kill babies,' Keith told.

'I thought, I'm not listening to this, and I grabbed my child and left.

'When he asked me where I was going, I told him I didn't want to hear, and he replied that 'if people didn't like it, they could also walk out'.'

Another father there said the atmosphere had already changed during the mass, when Fr McVeigh had pre-warned the congregation about his intention to speak.

'You could hear people mumbling with discontent and saying it was not the place, and people did stand up and tell him this as he was talking,' said the local man, who did not want to be identified.

'All the children knew there was something going on, and a few were getting a bit frightened when people started to leave. They could clearly hear what was being said.'

His wife said what happened was 'an absolute disgrace'.

'It was when he started talking about the size of babies in the womb that most parents lost the plot,' she added.

'It put a dampener on the whole day, and my child was asking me what the priest was talking about, but I didn't want to tell her.'

Fr McVeigh, who came to Clogherhead in 2013, said he reflected and prayed about saying anything at that particular mass, but had a duty of conscience to his parishioners, and it was his last chance before the referendum.

'I had told the parents I wanted to speak to them at the end of mass and the children should banter amongt themselves, I was only less than a minute into a few sentences, when I was stopped.

'It was not terribly explicit what I was saying, and children are hearing about it every day on the news,' added the priest,

'I do regret some people wouldn't allow me to say it, and I regret some people felt they had to walk out, and I am sorry some people felt it was the wrong thing to do.'

The Argus