A priest who said Mass earlier this week for Alan Hawe, the man who murdered his wife and three children a year ago before killing himself, has defended his actions.
Fr Felim Kelly, the parish priest of St Mary's Church, Castlerahan, Co Cavan, said he was following the gospel in proceeding with the Mass despite the objections from the family of Clodagh Hawe (née Coll), Mr Hawe's wife.
Fr Kelly said he had “no comment” to make other than to say, “my role as a priest is to preach the gospel. The gospel message I have is one of compassion and mercy.”
The family of Mrs Hawe stayed away from the Mass, instead keeping vigil beside her grave and that of her three children Liam (14), Niall (11) and Ryan (6).
They died at the hands of Mr Hawe on August 29th, 2016 at the family home in Oakdene outside Ballyjamesduff.
The family were outraged that this week’s parish bulletin contained notices of anniversary Masses both for Clodagh Hawe and her children and for Mr Hawe.
A Mass for the Mrs Hawe and the children was held on Sunday and there was a full attendance at the church in Castlerahan. By contrast, approximately 30 people turned up for Mr Hawe’s Mass on Wednesday night.
Speaking at it, Fr Kelly described the massacre as an “unspeakable horror”.
‘Only rightful judge’
However, he said that, according to the teachings and practice of the Catholic Church, the soul of Mr Hawe should be trusted to the mercy of God "who is the only rightful judge".
Kilmore Diocesan secretary Fr Donal Kilduff said an anniversary Mass did not confer any judgement on the person being prayed for either for good or ill.
“An anniversary Mass is not to glorify the deceased, but to implore God’s mercy for them,” he explained.
“I would be in agreement with Fr Kelly that God is the only judge. It is the custom to have anniversary Masses said.”
Fr Kilduff said he did not know who had requested the Mass for Mr Hawe, but anybody could do it. It did not have to be a relative or a close friend.
“Mass is offered for sinners, saints and whomever. We don’t discriminate,” he said.
On Wednesday night, Fr Kelly concluded by asking the congregation to pray for Clodagh's mother Mary Coll and Clodagh's sister Jacqueline.
He hoped God would “walk with them in the darkness” and assuage their “troubles and pain”.
But the Coll family could not have made their opposition to the Mass more clear. As it was going on, several members pointedly kept vigil at the grave of Clodagh and the Hawe children in the grounds of the church.
Four temporary crosses, a brown one for Clodagh and white ones for the children reflect the relatively recent nature of the grave. There is no headstone yet, but the grave is concreted over and the remains of Alan Hawe are gone. They were exhumed in May and he was cremated.
Clodagh's sister Jacqueline Connolly, who was present at the graveside on Wednesday night, outlined her opposition to the Mass for Alan Hawe in a posting left on The Irish Times Facebook page.
Underneath a report on the Mass which was held in the church on Sunday for Clodagh and her children, she pointed out that the Coll family “did not organise a separate Mass for the mass murderer Hawe. He was exhumed from that parish in May.
“We do not know who would be so disrespectful as to organise same”.
After the Mass, a member of the family, who wished to remain anonymous, said in response to Fr Kelly’s assertion that only God could judge Alan Hawe, “did God decide that his family should die that way?”