Fr. Ray Kelly, Ireland's so-called "singing priest," was forced to contact gardai after one concerning phone call as he participates on the Irish version of "Dancing with the Stars"
Irish priest Father Ray Kelly, who shot to fame with a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in 2014, has revealed that he has been the recipient abuse during his stint on “Dancing with the Stars.”
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The so-called "Irish singing priest" was a guest on RTE’s Liveline on February 19 where he opened up about the few instances of abuse he’s received since he began his tenure on the Irish version of “Dancing With the Stars.”
Fr Kelly said he decided to speak out about the abuse he’s received in the wake of the death of Caroline Flack, a UK television presenter who died on Friday after reportedly taking her own life.
On Liveline, Fr Kelly said he accepted the invitation to join the next season of the program back in October, saying he thought “it was a great honor to do it,” and noting that it was the first time a priest would have been featured on the competition program.
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As rehearsal started in the weeks before Christmas, Fr Kelly said he “got the odd Christmas card from loads of people wishing me well.”
However, he says, “One particular card came anonymously, not signed, just reminding me of what happened to John the Baptist when a woman danced for him.”
Fr Kelly said that some people pointed out that that card could have been construed as a death threat as John the Baptist was beheaded.
“I never actually saw it as a death threat at all,” Fr Kelly said, “I still don’t see it as a death threat, but some people say ‘you should have reported it,” though he never did.
The priest continued: “I had a few other negative comments here and there … there was one or two who said I shouldn’t have been on The Late Late Show between two lovely ladies.
“As a priest for 31 years, I’ve never really experienced that level of criticism. I’ve always worked hard in the parish and worked hard in my parish.” He added that the critical and abusive letters he received number maybe about half a dozen.
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Fr Kelly said the situation came to a head at the end of January when he received a phone call from a man asking to speak with Fr Kelly. Pretending to be someone else, Fr Kelly said he would take a note from the man and deliver it to the priest.
The man released an expletive-ridden rant to be delivered to the priest, saying things like “Fat effing belly dancing around the floor, he should be effing ashamed of himself.”
Fr Kelly asked for the man’s name and later realized the same man had also left him a voicemail with a similar message.
That particular incident got Fr Kelly down and he considered pulling out of the show. Producers from the show encouraged Fr Kelly to report the incident, which he ultimately chose to do, though he says he hasn’t heard anything since.
In another instance, Fr Kelly said he received a letter from a woman who suggested he “give up this dancing” in order to set an example during the upcoming Lenten season, which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26. He seems to have laughed the matter off.
(Years ago in Ireland, when Catholicism still had a firm grip on the country, dancing would not have occurred during Lent, the holy period in the lead up to Easter.)
The priest has acknowledged the show’s producers’ careful handling of both the situation and his vocation. “They assured me of the highest respect for my priesthood, and they have shown that 100 percent for me, totally.”
Despite the few instances of abuse, Fr Kelly remains determined to enjoy his time on DWTS: "If I can go out there and put a smile on people's faces with what I do, just performing and whether it's singing and dancing, then bring it on."
On February 19, the same day as Fr Kelly’s interview with Liveline, RTE One shared this behind the scenes look at Fr Kelly preparing for next week’s show:
Fr Ray’s Ready for Orchestra Week! #DWTSIrlPubliée par RTÉ One sur Mercredi 19 février 2020