McAleese maintains church deemed homosexuality ‘disorder’

US archbishop Charles Chaput says former president ‘trying to control’ Catholic faith

The former president of Ireland Mary McAleese has dismissed a statement by the Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput that the Catholic Church never said homosexuals were disordered.

Speaking to The Irish Times on Wednesday Archbishop Chaput, who recently hosted the World Summit of Families in Philadelphia which was attended by Pope Francis, said "I've read the documents and the church has never said that homosexual persons are disordered."

He had been asked about Ms McAleese’s claim last Friday that the church’s description of homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” with a tendency to “evil” led to homophobia.

He said the church said “that being attracted to a person of the same gender sexually is a disorder of our sexual nature. A lot of people have disorders. In fact we all do. Some of it would be less serious than sexual, like me and glasses or not being able to hear well, or having a tendency to overeat, those are all disorders that a person may have but it doesn’t destroy their dignity.”


Ms McAleese, he said, was also trying to control the faith of the church. She had “a very narrow point of view that’s trying to control something she shouldn’t try to control, that is the faith of the Catholic Church,” he said.

Responding, Ms McAleese said: “I do not know what Catholic Church documents Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia has read on the subject of homosexuality. Here are some of the most recent authentic Church teachings I have read.

“On December 29th, 1975 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the declaration Persona Humana, stated the following: ‘According to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God. This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.’

‘Moral evil’

"On 31 October 1986 the then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote on behalf of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith: 'Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.'"

She continued: "On August 31st 2005 Pope Benedict formally approved the following statement from the Congregation for Catholic Education: 'The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies. Regarding acts, it teaches that Sacred Scripture presents them as grave sins. The Tradition has constantly considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. Consequently, under no circumstance can they be approved. Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered."

Ms McAleese said: “Now if as Archbishop Chaput says the church teaches that homosexuality is no more ‘disordered’ than myopia or being hard of hearing then I would be happy to be directed to those church documents which say so. I have not been able to find them.

“To the slightly hysterical charge of wishing to control the faith of the Catholic Church, I acknowledge I like many others wish to see my church’s teaching on this subject change before it causes any more damage,” she said.

In his interview with The Irish Times, Archbishop Chaput said that language around the homosexuality issue was being used politically.

“It’s being used by politicians in order to stir up one side against the other and that’s inappropriate for politicians to do,” he said.

He said: “One of the dangers of the contemporary world, the western world, is that we see sexuality as defining ourselves rather than being part of who we are and something that controls us rather than something we learn to master in a lifetime. There are a lot of dimensions of human life that we need to manage and put into order and our human sexuality is one of those, perhaps one of the most difficult for many people to get it straight. I think you can overemphasise the importance of sexuality as part of who you are.”

Asked about Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Parolin’s description of last May’s same sex referendum result in Ireland as “a defeat for humanity,” Archbishop Chaput said “we think the most important unit of humanity is the family. So there’s a mother and father loving each other permanently for the sake of the children. And if people embrace a definition of marriage and family different than that we would see it as a loss for the good and future of humanity”.

He said: “We’ve a right to our opinion on the meaning of marriage as your former president has but she should respect our right to say what we think as I respect her right to say what she thinks and I’m not about to criticise her or what she said but it seems to me it’s a very narrow point of view that’s trying to control something she shouldn’t try to control, that is the faith of the Catholic Church.”

Where the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin was concerned he promised “to help in any way we can” and he hoped to attend.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times