Former Irish President Mary McAleese is accusing the Catholic Church of being in denial about gay people, citing the history of maltreatment and disgrace cast upon homosexuals.
“I don’t like my Church’s attitude to gay people,” McAleese told the Royal Society of Edinburgh. “I don’t like ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that? We also know that within the priesthood a very large number of priests are gay.”
She added that gay priests are “not so much the elephant in the room, but a herd of elephants.”
While the former president did not specifically mention Pope Francis, who has expressed far more liberal views toward homosexuality than Pope Benedict, McAleese did not speak well of his predecessor.
“Things written by [Pope] Benedict, for example, were completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding, and to the understanding of most Catholics nowadays in relation to homosexuality,” she said. “Nowadays, it is not something that is perceived as something that is intrinsically disordered. Homosexual conduct is not seen as evil.”
McAleese has also called for disgraced Scottish cardinal Keith O’Brien to come out and tell his life story. O’Brien retired from the church last year after he was accused of sexually harassing young priests. McAleese believes that the former cardinal spoke out against homosexuality in order to take attention away from his own orientation.
“I would have thought Cardinal Keith O’Brien, in telling the story of his life—if he was willing to do that—could have been of great assistance to gay people, not just in the Church but elsewhere, who felt over many, many years constrained to pretend to be heterosexual while at the same time acting a different life,” said McAleese.
Ireland’s Association of Catholic priests welcomed McAleese’s comments. Father Tony Flannery said he was pleased by the former president’s words, adding that the “percentage of priests who are of homosexual orientation has undoubtedly increased” within the last decade. Flannery also said that “some of [his]best friends” are homosexual.
Father Flannery told the Irish Times, “When a certain approach to a moral issue is clearly out of tune with the Catholic [faith], I think it has to be rethought.”