Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese recently denounced the Church’s teaching on homosexuality saying the doctrine “empowers the homophobic bully,” and that it is the church teaching, not homosexuality, which is “intrinsically evil.”
Novena News reported that McAleese, who served as president from 1997 to 2011, made the remarks on a podcast entitled Dive Into Pride during Dublin’s Pride celebrations. McAleese holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. She currently serves as chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin.
She specifically criticized the language used to describe homosexuality in the Catechism, saying:
“The church describes homosexual acts as intrinsically evil. I would regard the Church’s teaching as disorderly and intrinsically evil. Why is it intrinsically evil? Because it conduces to homophobia.”
Emphasizing the need for the Church to develop its teachings in dialogue with up-to-date scientific knowledge, she noted:
“The Church’s teaching on homosexuality is ignorant, it is unreconstructive in the life of science, it’s sad to say. It has never been looked at in the light of the new sciences and it’s not only a pity, it’s worse than that.
“Look at the language that is used – ‘the homosexuality is disordered’. Who wants to believe that their God-given nature is disordered? That homosexual acts, how they express their love in a loving relationship, for example… that that is regarded as intrinsically evil. I don’t think so.”
McAleese also described how the teaching of the Church can become harmful when it is used to bolster homophobia, saying:
“And that by its nature… that language of evil and disordered trickles down into the thinking and it empowers the homophobe, it empowers the homophobic bully. It gives him or her permission to be homophobic and I think the church has got to answer that.”
Ireland’s The Journal reported that McAleese also criticized Pope Francis and the Vatican, nothing that other European cardinals and bishops are engaging in far more progressive dialogues on LGBTQ issues. She stated:
“Certain bishops, particularly in Germany and certain cardinals have been champions in this regard, and I think I see in them the green shoots of a future open debate, but let me go back to Francis.
“A lot of people will say ‘Oh wasn’t it wonderful when he said who am I to judge’. Well I was not at all impressed by that, I was angered by it because he does judge. He is the supreme judge of the Church. He is the legislator, he is the judge. If there is something wrong with the law, the only way it can be changed in the Church is if he changes it.
“He is the person who presides over the law that uses these awful phrases ‘intrinisically evil, intrinsically disordered’, he presides over that. He cannot have it both ways but there is a long tradition in the church of having it both ways.”
McAleese has a history of advocating for LGBTQ equality and critiquing homophobia in the Church. She recently criticized exclusionary censoring in the preparatory materials for the 2018 World Meeting of Families, which took place in Dublin. The mother of a gay son, she endorsed marriage equality, and, in 2015, she stated that Church teaching on homosexuality was wrong and that the Church’s language about lesbian and gay people is conducive for homophobia. In 2015, she addressed an international conference on Catholic LGBT issues, sponsored by the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. McAleese was also a legal advisor for the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform that succeeded in decriminalizing homosexuality in Ireland in 1993.
Mary McAleese’s willingness to be honest about homophobia in the Church is inspiring, especially given her status as a public figure and canon law expert. For the Church to truly protect the dignity of all people, McAleese reminds us, it must abandon its harmful teaching on homosexuality which help bolster homophobia.
—Madeline Foley, New Ways Ministry, July 23, 2020