Change to Church teaching on sexual morality long overdue

In a letter to the editor of The Irish Times, Garry O’Sullivan outlines how Fr Sean Sheehy’s controversial homily in Kerry illustrates that the Church urgently needs to change its historical stance on sexual morality.


Regarding Fr Sean Sheehy and the Listowel Homily, the ‘for’ and ‘against’ clerical camps as outlined in your letters page are demonstrating the schizophrenia of official Catholic moral teaching and its theology of God. The Church has been trying to have it both ways regarding sexual morality and God but the game is up and the time has come for courage and a change in official teaching.

‘Fire and brimstone’

Since the 1960s the Church has quietly shelved the ‘fire and brimstone’ moral theology, and vengeful God, in favour of a God who is love and mercy and compassion.

Where love is, God is as the American theologian Ilia Delio has said.  And if gay men or women are sharing lives of love, then God is in the midst of their love. And if God is in the midst of their love, then logically their relationship can be blessed by the Church.

Logical, but not for the bishops, cardinals and Pope who preach this God of love while keeping the Catechism’s medieval teaching on homosexuality.

Gay people

Pope Francis delighted Catholics when in reference to gay people he said ‘Who am I to judge?’ Yet he allowed a statement to be issued by the Vatican that said the Church can’t bless gay unions because ‘God doesn’t bless sin’.

So which is it – sin or love?
The Pope has engaged in a  world-wide listening process and the voice of Catholics is clear- change the teaching on LGBTQ+.

Synod of Bishops

A Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023 will debate this feedback. The choice is simple: A) Like Fr Sheehy, the Church can double down on the catechism and preach the teaching to a largely indifferent secular society and completely alienate remaining Catholics. B)The Pope and his bishops hear the clear voice of LGBTQ+ Catholics and most Catholics worldwide and change the catechism to reflect the God who is love that they preach rather than the vengeful one busily running Fr Sheehy’s fiery hell.

Morality does change- as the late Fr Sean Fagan wrote so often and the Irish Bishops, perhaps led by the Bishop of Kerry, now have an opportunity to lead the international push for change through this phase of the Synodal Process to influence the Rome Synod in October.

Fr Sheehy – who has shot this issue to international attention – clearly has the courage of his convictions, will the rest of the Church; priests, bishops and laity demonstrate theirs and use this momentum to get the teaching changed?

Yours etc
Garry O’Sullivan
The Synodal Times
Columba Books
Dublin 18

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