Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese demands Catholic Church change 'evil' teachings on homosexuality

In the lead up to Pride 2020, David Watters spoke with Mary McAleese on LGBT+ rights in Ireland and the impact of the Catholic Church for a podcast series.

Mary McAleese

Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese decried the Catholic Church’s teachings around homosexuality as ‘disorderly and intrinsically evil’ during a podcast interview.

Ahead of the Pride 2020 festivities, David Watters created a 5-part podcast series featuring interviews with LGBT+ allies and leaders championing queer rights in Ireland and internationally. During a riveting conversation with McAleese, the former President addressed current issues regarding homophobia and racism within Irish society.

On the Dive Into…Pride podcast, McAleese called for further actions towards ensuring full inclusivity within Ireland and how religious institutions must create a more open space for LGBT+ people. She said, “The Church’s teaching on homosexuality is ignorant, it is unreconstructive in the life of science, it’s sad to say. It has never been looked at in the light of the new sciences and it’s not only a pity, it’s worse than that.”

McAleese stated, “Look at the language that is used – ‘the homosexuality is disordered’. Who wants to believe that their God-given nature is disordered? That homosexual acts, how they express their love in a loving relationship, for example… that that is regarded as intrinsically evil. I don’t think so.”

Former President McAleese called on the Catholic Church to address how these ingrained discriminatory teachings aggravate homophobia. She declared, “That language of evil and disordered trickles down into the thinking and it empowers the homophobe, it empowers the homophobic bully. It gives him or her permission to be homophobic and I think the Church has got to answer that.”

McAleese criticised the Vatican and Pope Francis by questioning their claims of being progressive. She raised the point that action towards promoting inclusivity is still lacking, “If there is something wrong with the law, the only way it can be changed in the Church is if he changes it. He is the person who presides over the law that uses these awful phrases ‘intrinisically evil, intrinsically disordered’, he presides over that. He cannot have it both ways but there is a long tradition in the church of having it both ways.”

The Belfast-born law lecturer has been a leading advocate for LGBT+ rights in Ireland as well as vocal in her address of the Catholic Church’s impact on Irish society. Speaking with Watters, she stated, “I’ve always been human-rights conscious and civil-rights conscious, that’s why I did law. You know, a Catholic from Belfast, that’s our thing, and when I came to Trinity in ’75, I moved to Trinity and took up a job there as a law lecturer.”

McAleese further shared, “One of the first friends I made there was David Norris and we got chatting and one of the first debates I ever attended was on LGBTI rights. David and I got together and chatted about [it], we’re talking about a time when homosexual acts were criminalised, you can imagine the impact of that on people.”

In the late 1970s, Norris, along with future presidents of Ireland Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, launched their Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform. Following almost two decades of legal battles, homosexuality was finally decriminalised. 

Watters’ interview with Mary McAleese as well as the entire 5-part series can be found on Spotify, Apple, and Anchor.

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