Former president Mary McAleese has criticised Pope Francis as a populist who raises expectations only to dash them, following a Vatican document published on Monday which sustained a ban on same-sex blessings.
She described the document, approved by the pope, as “withering”.
About Francis himself, Ms McAleese said his “chummy words to the press often quite reasonably raise hopes of church reform which are subsequently almost invariably dashed by firm restatements of unchanged church teaching”.
While raising hopes, “he is the pope who toes the old hard line”, she said.
She has also written to Ireland’s Catholic bishops asking that they challenge language used about gay people in the document, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). She asked “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”.
In the letter to Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, she spoke of the document's "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."
She noted how the church “runs 90 per cent of our primary schools and 50 per cent of our second-level schools” and of “the right of our children not to be exposed to cruelly-worded teachings that conduce to homophobia”.
Referring to Catholic bishops elsewhere, some of whom have taken issue with the language in the CDF document, she asked: “Is there any vestige of such episcopal courage here?”
Meanwhile, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has said the CDF document is “unfortunate and unwise”, and described as “breathtaking” the certainty with which the CDF assumed “what God can and cannot do” .
The “judgemental and discriminatory statement” left ACP leaders “saddened and disappointed”, and feeling “it is increasingly difficult to remain hopeful of an inclusive church”, they said.
The CDF document said it was “not licit” for Catholic priests to give blessings to same-sex couples as it was “necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace , according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord”.