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‘Common slut’ Sonia gets apology

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — After widespread criticism of his remarks, an elderly priest has apologized for calling new mother and international runner Sonia O’Sullivan "a common slut" during the course of a homily from the pulpit on the breakdown of morality in Ireland.

The 29-year-old athlete gave birth to a daughter Ciara in July in London, where she lives with her partner, Nick Bideau.

The personal attack by Fr. James Duffy, who is in his 70s, led to outraged complaints to an RTE talk show that made public his remark — though some callers supported him, saying he was upholding church teaching.

Fr. Duffy, who made his remark recently in St. Patrick’s Church, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, said later it had been delivered in the heat of the moment.

"I now realize it was very hurtful to Sonia and her family and I

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withdraw it unreservedly," he said in a statement issued through the

Catholic Press Office in Dublin.

With more than half of all Irish first pregnancies now outside marriage, such a strident and bitter attack on single mothers no doubt will not help attract a younger congregation to Sunday Masses.

Since the 1960s, there has been a profound social change with the

number of non-marital births rising steadily — from under 1,000 in 1965 to 15,000 last year.

The Cobh-born runner has long been one of Ireland’s major sporting figures. She had one of her best seasons last year.

She won the long course (7.6km) and the short course (4km) world

cross-country championships in 1998, taking the two titles within 24

hours. She also had an unprecedented 5,000- and 10,000-meter gold-medal double at the European Championships.

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