On Eve of Dublin Pride, McAleese Calls Church Teaching on Gay People ‘Evil’

(New Ways Ministry’s response to this news is embedded in this post.  To read the response only, click here.)

In an interview on the eve of Dublin’s LGBT Pride Parade, the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, has called Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality “evil.”

The Irish Times spoke with McAleese at a celebration of the Missionary Society of St Columban’s centenary celebration.  She spoke about hierarchical attitudes towards women and homosexuality. Of the latter she said:

“My church’s teaching on homosexuality is, in my view, evil. It educes to homophobia; homophobia is evil. It ruins people’s lives. It has ruined families’ lives. It has caused people to commit suicide. It has caused people to live in dark shadows.”

Mary McAleese

The news story continued with her remarks about the experience of her gay son:

“She said her son ‘loved the church’ and then discovered ‘that same church has a view of him that is inimical to the way God made him. It directed him ‘to retreat into the shadows of self-doubt, of misery of being really frightened.’ “

McAleese will be marching with her son and his husband in the Dublin Pride Parade today.

The Irish Times reported that McAleese also characterized church actions toward LGBT people as “unchristian” and “worse than uncharitable.”  She added: “The only person who can actually stop that… is the pope.”

McAleese gave a mixed review to Pope Francis, as she spoke with reference to the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Dublin, an event that has attracted great controversy in regard to LGBT issues:

“While she praised the pope for sparking new debates within the church, she regretted that ‘lovely statements’ he had made about inclusivity had been removed from the catechesis of the World Meeting of Families, to take place in Dublin in August.”

The former Irish president, who holds an advanced theological degree from the Gregorian University in Rome, has been frank and candid on the hierarchy’s positions on women and LGBT issues.  These latest comments reflect the thought of many Catholics around the world, especially LGBT Catholics and their loved ones, who have been so wounded for so long by harmful language and ideas from the Vatican, local bishops, and clergy.  While her language may sound harsh, it reflects the direction of even many bishops who have recently spoken out about the need to discuss new approaches to LGBT issues.  She has put into clear and powerful detail how much harm the church’s teaching has caused.  Mary McAleese speaks with the fury of a mother whose love for her offspring, which mirrors God’s love for all people, will not be silenced.

Catholic advocates for LGBT people have for decades been delivering the same message that McAleese offered, yet we have not heard such strong language from so prominent a Catholic before.  Perhaps no one has said it as boldly as she has.  The strength of her language comes not only from her thoughts, but also from the passion and urgency with which she speaks.  Her words sting because for too many decades, church leaders have ignored the calls from the faithful for greater LGBT acceptance.  Her words are piercing because the hierarchy which has not paid attention to the pain of LGBT people. Additionally. we must remember that members of the hierarchy are responsible for heightening the rhetoric of LGBT discussions into even greater feverish and negative language.

While her message is powerful, and needed to be said, it is truly depressing that the Catholic LGBT discussion has become a shouting match.  Such shouting, though, is necessary to attract attention to the terrible tragedies caused by magisterial ignorance and apathy.

This statement should be a signal of the urgency for greater discussion of LGBT issues in Catholicism, and also of the need for changes in both doctrine and pastoral practice.

The hierarchy could start by offering a greater welcome to LGBT people and families at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August, including allowing them to speak officially at the event.  Church leaders should also invite LGBT youth to speak at the Youth Synod at the Vatican in October.

The Irish Times also reported that McAleese puts the blame for inaction on LGBT issues at the feet of Pope Francis:

“Rejecting the notion that the pope lacks full control over church affairs, Mrs McAleese said: ‘He is the pope; he is completely in control. The pope has full primatial powers.’ “

“However, she added ‘this is a pope who has said from day one that he is never going to change doctrine… I have a problem with him even saying that. It’s a bit like a judge going into court and saying anybody who comes before me on a case of theft I’m going to sentence them all to 15 years in prison… that is trammelling on his own discretion. A judge wouldn’t be allowed to do that.’ “

“On various issues from Galileo to the separation of church and state, ‘the curia have written, and popes have written, millions and millions and millions of words they have had to eat,’ she said.

” ‘When the pope says he is not going to change doctrine there is something not right in my view about that.’ “

She also criticized academics for lacking courage to speak out, and that a culture of deference was harming any progress.  Yet, she offered praise for the church’s nuns:

“Mrs McAleese said the nuns she had conversations with were ‘so far ahead of the posse’ and she praised too the work of missionaries for raising consciousness of issues of international justice.”

In the same interview, McAleese also had strong words about the hierarchy’s treatment of women, saying:

“The curial, magisterial church is so far behind the curve [on the issue] it is embarrassing.”

“Pope Francis was ‘a disappointment in relation to women,’ she continued.

” ‘I mean he is no different to any other pope on women. A few more appointments, but really? Seriously? They increased visibility, not voice. And they’re not going anywhere.”

To read Bondings 2.0’s past posts about Mary McAleese and Catholic LGBT issues, click here

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 30, 2018



6 replies
  1. Mary Jo
    Mary Jo says:

    Absolutely the words that need to be said. Right up front and completely honest and transparent. Refreshing and about time. And she’s right about the nuns! 👊

    • Barb Monda
      Barb Monda says:

      Thank God for the ‘former President of Ireland to have more of an idea for what true Christian Charity is than the ‘Holy Roman Catholic Church”. Where are the other National Leaders?

  2. Thomas Bower
    Thomas Bower says:

    God bless her. If Francis wants a real place in history to make the Church more Christ-like he should make her a cardinal and and work to make sure she is elected the next Pope after he is gone.

  3. Clyde Christofferson
    Clyde Christofferson says:

    Mary McAleese is quoted as saying, “When the pope says he is not going to change doctrine there is something not right in my view about that.” Yes, not quite right. But “doctrine” in a different sense. There is something essential about clarifying the importance of a larger principle, namely, the priority of God’s love over doctrine (Matthew 22:40). You don’t clarify the importance of this principle if you deal with the immediate problem by changing the doctrine about gender, which was always wrong but the injustice of it has now become painfully obvious.
    The better tactic — which is what Francis is doing — is to leave doctrine as it is and recognize the priority of attending to God’s love. That is what “discernment” is about — attending to the love of God as witnessed by the Spirit in the human heart. As Paul said in Galatians, if you have discerned this love (Christ’s “new covenant”) it doesn’t make any difference what the law say. The point — the lesson that must be learned — is the priority due to what is loving. If it’s loving in the sight of God, then that is what you do. Contrary doctrine must give way. And this recognition of priority can be “doctrinalized” — that is, expressed as a teaching of the Church. Francis is already trying to do this with his emphasis upon discernment in Amoris Laetitia (and in his statement to the Chilean Jesuits last January). Vatican II tried to do this — or at least move in this direction — with its Trinitarian formulation of revelation in Dei Verbum.

    We need doctrinal change, but at a different level than the particulars of homosexuality, women in priestly ministry, and the rest. If we clarify in church teaching the priority of a discerned love, and back that up with supporting mechanisms, then the church will be a more just church on a wide variety of issues, not just homosexuality.


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