Fr Michael O’Leary, parish priest of Wilton, Cork, will no longer act as school chaplain at Gaelscoil Uí Riada, after inviting a guest speaker who made comments about homosexuality and divorce, which caused several people to walk out of mass in protest.
As reported by The Echo, a spokesperson for the Catholic diocese of Cork and Ross confirmed that Fr Michael O’Leary won’t be providing chaplaincy services to the school in the future. It follows an incident that took place last Tuesday, January 30, at a special ceremony organised for pupils and families of Gaelscoil Uí Riada and held at St Joseph’s Church in Wilton.
On the occasion, Fr Michael O’Leary had invited a guest speaker to address the congregation and discuss intergenerational faith issues. However, the guest instead launched into a rant in which he claimed Irish society is falling apart.
During his speech, he is said to have been highly critical of homosexuality and used the term “gender benders” when referring to non-binary Eurovision artist Bambie Thug. The layperson also stated that some people have used divorce to manage chaos in their lives. Such remarks caused many adults to walk out in protest, with one mother shouting “mol an óige (praise the young)” as she left.
Following the incident, the school sent an email to parents in which principal Breanndán Ó Gréilligh and board of management chairperson Séamus Ó Rinn issued an apology. They explained that the invitation of the guest speaker happened without their prior knowledge and expressed regret for the upset caused. Moreover, they said that the school authorities had arranged a meeting with Bishop Fintan Gavin, who leads the Diocese of Cork and Ross, to discuss the issue.
At the meeting, in which Fr O’Leary, the board of management of Gaelscoil Uí Riada, and Bishop Gavin were present, it was decided that the priest would no longer provide his services at the Cork school. Speaking to The Echo, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Cork and Ross said, “Fr O’Leary has recognised that it’s best for the school that he step back from that role”.
They further explained that the 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”.
The spokesperson also clarified 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.”
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