Former Irish President Mary McAleese Calls Vatican Ban “Gratuitously Cruel in the Extreme”; And Other Irish Reactions

Mary McAleese

Irish Catholics are resisting the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples,and the country’s former president, Mary McAleese, who called it “gratuitously cruel in the extreme.”

McAleese wrote to Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of Ireland, about the Vatican ban, which she described as “a litany of judgmental statements wrapped in syrupy language” about being pastorally welcoming. The Tablet, which also published a letter by the former Irish president, reported:

“Admitting that she did not expect the answer to the dubium to be positive, ‘I am not that naïve’, Professor McAleese adds that she did not, however, anticipate the ‘unbearably vicious language which can only have brought more heartache to our gay children and to us their families.’

“‘Heartache and hurt fired like a missile from the centre of governance of the Church. Foolishly I dared to hope the language might reflect a growing awareness of the damage Church language has already wrought.’ . . .

“‘Now I am writing again to ask if there is even one among you willing to acknowledge publicly that the language used in this most recent document from CDF is gratuitously cruel in the extreme,’ she challenges.”

A mother who has a gay son, McAleese is a canon lawyer, with her advanced degree from the Gregorian University in Rome.  She also remarked on the number of Catholics, including some bishops, who have challenged the Vatican in the past week, writing: “Their courage is commendable. Is there any vestige of such episcopal courage here [in Ireland]?”

She said the new synodal journey recently announced by Ireland’s bishops would not do well if the synod’s conclusions are already determined:

“‘In other words, expect no change on the part of the magisterium but expect to be asked to renew obedience to it despite your conscientious opinions. If that is to be the Synodal journey you can be sure it is already doomed to failure.'”

She wrote of Pope Francis, “When he is on a plane shooting the breeze with journalists, he is the populist Pope who is trumpeted as the great reformer, a label he seems to relish. Behind his desk he is the Pope who toes the old hard line.”

The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland also took aim at the Vatican ban, calling the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s responsum “unfortunate and unwise, both in content and in timing,” as well as being “contradictory” and “condemnatory.” A statement from the reform group acknowledged that it is “increasingly difficult to remain hopeful of an inclusive church,” and continued:

“While it says that gay people are loved and valued by the Church, it then states that they are sinners, that their loving relationships are fundamentally opposed to God’s plan for creation. The certainty with which [the Vatican] assume what God can and cannot do, is breathtaking. It seems fair to say that gay people, reading this document, will not feel loved and valued.

“This divisive statement comes at a time when there is a major initiative, both in the Vatican and by the Irish bishops, to initiate a process of synodality, meaning a process where people will be asked for their views on all aspects of church life. It is emphasised that everyone’s voice will be heard, especially those on the margins of the Church.

“Following on from this judgemental and discriminatory statement, it will be hard for gay people to believe that Church authorities will be open and welcoming of their views.”

We Are Church Ireland told The Irish Times that the Vatican’s document was “both theologically flawed and outdated as well as profoundly lacking pastorally,” and said that many LGBTQ Catholics understood it as “an act of violence, spiritual abuse.” WAC Ireland called for priests in the country to resist and to pledge to bless same-gender unions.

Fr. Tim Hazlewood, a priest in County Cork involved with the Association of Catholic Priests, has made such a pledge, reported The Irish Times:

“‘Our experience is that [same-gender couples in families of his parishioners] are lovely couples and to hear something like that, that their relationship is sinful, I wonder how many of them know and meet and interact with those families and those people,”he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland. . .

“When asked if he would bless a same sex couple’s union, Fr Hazlewood replied: ‘Just two days ago there was pieces of weed that grows in the ground and I blessed them. I blessed shamrock, now if two people stand in front of me and they love each other and they are committing to each other for the rest of their lives and I bless shamrock and wouldn’t bless them. I don’t think there’s a doubt or a question there.'”

Hazlewood added:

“‘There’s an awful difference between somebody in Rome making a promulgation and what’s the lived experience of the church and I think a lot of priests would say “if Christ was here with us now, what would Christ do?” He would do the caring, the loving thing.'”

Thousands of Catholics worldwide are pledging to bless same-gender couples. If you have not already added your name to New Ways Ministry’s pledge, you can do so here

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 23, 2021

Other Resources

For all the previous posts concerning the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples, click here.

For a listing of Catholic leaders who have spoken positively about same-gender relationships and unions, click here.

For information about a Catholic blessing for a same-gender couple, click here.

For more information on how to be welcoming to married same-gender couples, click here.

2 replies
  1. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    In all the great coverage Bondings has done regarding the CDC’s statement on blessing same-sex unions, there’s one that’s MIA–James Alison’s “Same-sex blessings and the CDF – how to recognise a tantrum,” in the same issue of The Tablet as the article on McAleese.

    Maybe you are planning to cover this piece. It deserves a wide audience!

    • Francis DeBernardo, Editor
      Francis DeBernardo, Editor says:

      Thank you! Yes, we are going to cover that excellent essay. The news these days just keeps coming in faster than we can push it out! 🙂


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