Mary McAleese challenges Catholic ban on contraception

Former president joins more than 100 academics in signing ‘Scholars’ Statement’

Former president Mary McAleese is among more than 100 international Catholic academics who have signed a ‘Scholars’ Statement’ challenging the church’s banning of artificial contraception.

Prepared by independent think tank the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, it will be published in New York tomorrow at an event hosted by the UN Population Fund.

Among the Irish-based signatories to the statement are theologians Fr Gabriel Daly of the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College Dublin; Fr Donal Dorr; Fr Wilfrid Harrington of Dublin's Milltown Institute and Church of Ireland Theological College; Dr Gina Menzies and Prof David Smith of Dublin's Royal College of Surgeons; and Fr Joseph O'Leary of Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan.

Damage inflicted

Endorsing the statement, Mrs McAleese said of the church’s teaching on contraception: “The damage inflicted particularly on the poor, on women, on children, on relationships, on health, on society and not least on the church itself, is a millstone around our necks and we are drowning.


“It needs to be removed in conscience, in justice and in Christ for, as this Scholars’ Statement explains compellingly, it has no basis in divine law.”

For her the issue was “personal,” as “the oldest of nine children and one of the 69 live children my mother and her siblings produced. Ours is precisely the kind of large Catholic clan system so beloved of flattering papal documents on the family.


“Yet while our parents handed on to my generation the baton of a strong but docile Catholic faith, they never encouraged us to have the big families they had.”

Her generation "largely rejected Humanae Vitae's ban on artificial contraception, along with it magisterial control over family size. Our small families testify to that".

Mrs McAleese said all over the world "good, decent, faith-filled men and women are infantilised and robbed" by the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae of their "God-given right and obligation to make sensible adult decisions in the best interests of their health, their relationships and their children".

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times