Former president Mary McAleese has ridiculed the concept of 300 elderly celibates coming together to discuss family questions.
Addressing a meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow (LGBT) Catholics on the eve of the Vatican’s Synod on the Family, Ms MacAleese said:
“In the days when I was president, we had workshops on various issues and if I wanted to look at an issue, I would consult the experts... But look at the Synod, I have to ask the question: If I wanted expertise on the family, I honestly cannot say that the first thing that would come into my mind would be to call together 300 celibate males who, as far we know, have never raised a child...
“Let me repeat a question I asked last year when I saw the Vatican’s lengthy pre-Synod questionnaire, namely how many of these men have ever changed a child’s nappy? For me that is a very important question because it is one thing to say that we all grew up in families, we had mothers, we had fathers but it is a very different thing to raise a gay child, a very different thing to live daily in a relationship and to police the relationships between children and the world.”
Acknowledging that the Synod will doubtless be considering the Catholic Church’s pastoral approach to homosexuals, Ms McAleese described herself as “cynical” about the outcome of the forthcoming three week consultation. Describing herself as someone slow to discover that the Church was not a champion of the rights of women or gays, but rather was the opposite, namely a conduit for homophobia, she said:
“The Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality is simply wrong. Catholic teaching tells us that homosexuality is ‘intrinsically disordered’ and that homosexual acts are evil... but I would say that it is my Church’s teaching on homosexuality that is intrinsically disordered, a teaching that leads to homophobia...”
To be gay is not a choice, she said. Talking about her gay son, Justin, she recalled how when he told her that he was gay, he had added that “if this was a choice, I would not make it”.
She said that some of the bitter homophobic attitudes she had encountered amongst a small number of priests in Rome, where she has been studying in recent years, had reminded her of the difficulty of that choice.
Welcoming the victory in May’s same-sex marriage referendum, Ms McAleese said it was the “work of real grace” amongst the faithful, adding: “We don’t talk about gay marriage in Ireland anymore we just talk about the marriage of our citizens.”