The Church has “got to answer” for its teaching on gays that “empowers the homophobic bully”, a former Irish president has insisted.

– “The Church describes homosexual acts as intrinsically evil. I would regard the Church’s teaching as intrinsically evil”

Mary McAleese, who served two terms as Irish president betwen 1997 and 2011 and has since received a doctorate in canon law from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, hit out at the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality in a podcast to mark last weekend’s Dublin Pride celebrations.

“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”, McAleese deplored.

The now-Chancellor of Trinity College Dublin took aim especially at the language in the Catechism, which among other things describes homosexual acts as “acts of grave depravity” that “do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity”, adding “under no circumstances can they be approved”.

But McAleese clapped back, arguing “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”.

“Look at the language that is used – ‘the homosexuality is disordered’. Who wants to believe that their God-given nature is disordered?”, McAleese asked.

“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”, she added.

The former politician and canon law expert explained that the Church’s language wounds not only gay people and their families – especially gay believers seeking acceptance in Catholicism – but also provides further licence to demean and discriminate against them as well.

“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”, McAleese insisted.

– Pleads with Pope to modify laws, change “awful phrases” in Catechism

McAleese praised “certain bishops, particularly in Germany” as well as “certain cardinals” whom she said have been “champions” in terms of forging a more positive outreach on the part of the Church to the LGBT community, and in that sense have been “the green shoots of a future open debate” regarding Catholic doctrine and homosexuality.

However, she added that there is only one man who can really make a difference in terms of the Church’s approach to gays: Pope Francis, whom moreover is dragging his feet on the issue.

“A lot of people will say ‘Oh wasn’t it wonderful when he said who am I to judge'”, McAleese observed of the pontiff’s famous 2013 remark on gays who “seek[] God and [have] good will”, in which he also referred to another teaching in the Catechism that homosexuals should never be marginalised but instead must be integrated into society.

“Well I was not at all impressed by that”, McAleese admitted, “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”, McAleese pleaded with the Pope.

“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”, she lamented.

McAleese has been involved in the gay rights movement ever since the 1970s, when she was a legal advisor for the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform that finally suceeded in having homosexuality decriminalised in Ireland in 1993.

More on Novena on Mary McAleese:

Former Irish president demands Vatican be held to account over abuse committed by ‘saint’ of the disabled Jean Vanier

Former Irish president decries “invisibility and powerlessness” of women in Church, suggests John Paul II justified rape

Former Irish president claps back at critics, insists John Paul II “rape” quote accurate

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.