Mary McAleese, a former president of the Republic of Ireland, has weighed in on the Catholic hierarchy’s attitudes towards lesbian and gay people, and she has strong words for church leaders.
McAleese, who is currently studying canon law in Rome, gave an interview to Ireland’s RTE radio, which was reported in The Irish Examiner, in which she called the Catholic hierarchy’s approach outdated and dangerous:
“Mary McAleese believes while the Vatican is losing its argument on its teachings, some youngsters in Catholic schools are left battling an internal conflict.
“She said the numbers of young men who have died by suicide in Ireland is galling, with gay men one of the most at-risk groups.
” ‘They are the victims, one, of homophobic bullying; they are also frankly highly conflicted,’ said Mrs McAleese, who is studying canon law in Rome after her 14-year term ended in November.
“She said the vast majority of children in Ireland went to Catholic schools, where they would have heard the Church’s attitude to homosexuality.
” ‘They will have heard words like “disorder”, they may have heard the word “evil” used in relation to homosexual practice,’ said Mrs McAleese.
” ‘And when they make the discovery, and it is a discovery and not a decision, when they make the discovery they are gay when they are 14, 15, and 16, an internal conflict of absolutely appalling proportions opens up.’ “
McAleese said that the Catholic hierarchy is becoming “increasingly isolated” in its stance toward homosexuality. The author of Quo Vadis: Collegiality In The Code Of Canon Law, McAleese was critical of church officials for not listening to the positions of the laity on the topic of homosexuality.
The Examiner noted that McAleese has made her views known to a Vatican official:
“The former president met the Papal Nuncio Charles Brown, who represents Pope Benedict in Ireland, shortly after Easter to draw his attention to the issue.
“But she fears the issue will not be tackled until the ‘omerta’ or code of silence is broken.”
McAleese’s comments echo what many Catholic advocates for LGBT people have long stated: Vatican language in this area is pastorally destructive and the church needs to have much greater dialogue, including lay participation, in the area of sexuality. She has joined the ranks of many Catholic government leaders in the U.S. and around the world who are calling for the church to renew its teaching in this regard.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry