A priest in Co Donegal saw members of his congregation walk out in the middle of mass after he launched an attack on gay marriage and sports star Eamon McGee.
McGee is a Gaelic footballer who helped Donegal win the All Ireland Championship in 2012. He has been involved in the ‘Yes’ campaign, in favour of gay marriage, for an upcoming referendum on marriage equality.
Last week he told the Irish examiner why he had taken a stance on the issue.
He said: “If I ever have a child and he or she turns out to be gay, they could say to me ‘you had a chance to make a difference in that vote’. I don’t know would I be more ashamed that I didn’t vote or the fact I voted against it. It comes down to equality and one less difference in society.
“It’s not that I have any friends who are gay or any close family members but it’s a social issue. The easiest thing would have been to put the head in the sand and let them fire away themselves.
“But that attitude hasn’t served us well before and the more I read up on it the more I found there’s a high level of ignorance in parts of society.”
McGee’s comments have received plenty of support but have also drawn some criticism from traditionalists.
Annagry parish priest Father John Britto told his congregation that McGee was wrong to support gay marriage.
According to the Donegal Daily, Father Britto is a strong opponent of same sex marriage and made his feelings clear during the mass.
Some of the congregations found his views outdated and offensive and walked out of the church while the mass was still in progress.
A parishioner said: “A few people walked out; Father Britto was giving a very robust sermon on gay marriage and said McGee was wrong (to support the Yes campaign).”
McGee has previously said that there are still plenty of people in Ireland, not just in the church, who have traditional views on same sex marriage, and that is reflected in the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association).
He said: “There’s no point lying about it: there’s certain aspects of GAA folk that are traditionalists, have Catholic viewpoints and are old school. They will view this with a bit of suspicion, this lifestyle. Maybe that’s 20-30% of them, 30% maximum. The majority of the GAA are coming on now to it.
“The GAA’s a good indicator. It comes into every aspect of society from the cities to the rural communities. I think society in general is coming to accept it but you’re always going to get those one or two traditionalists that are slow to change. Gradually, it’s coming. These people are entitled to their viewpoints and it’s unfair on me to call them ignorant.”
A GAA referee was recently banned from wearing a Gay Pride wristband while he officiated a match. However, the GAA said that this was due to it being a non-political organisation and didn’t allow any political gestures to be made on the pitch. It added that it wouldn’t oppose its members raising awareness of political issues elsewhere.