Dr Mary McAleese slams Vatican for causing 'heartache and hurt' to LGBTQ+ community

In an appeal for Irish bishops and clergy members to support same-sex union blessings, Dr Mary McAleese criticised the Vatican for their "vicious" statement.

A woman giving a speech

Former Irish President Mary McAleese has heavily criticised the Vatican for the “heartache and hurt” caused by the decision to not bless same-sex unions. 

Appealing for the head of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Eamon Martin, to take action, Dr McAleese speaks out against the “unbearably vicious language” used in the Responsum Explanatory Memorandum released by the Vatican. She wrote, “Heartache and hurt fired like a missile from the centre of governance of the Church. Foolishly, I dared to hope the language might reflect a growing awareness of the damage Church language has already wrought.”

In response to a question about whether the Catholic clergy can bless same-sex unions,  the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, released a formal statement. It concluded that the Church does not have the power to do so, which CEO of LGBT Ireland, Paula Fagan, found “deeply disappointing” as it’s “important for the couples that want it. A lot of people in Ireland and elsewhere are Catholic and want that acceptance and blessing from the Church. Fundamentally, for them it’s huge, and also for their extended families. It would help with acceptance from the wider family.”

Dr McAleese further spoke out against the Vatican, stating that their response “can only have brought more heartache to our gay children and to their families.” In her appeal for action, she commended the clerics and bishops who have already spoken in support of blessing same-sex unions. 

Reacting to the statement, the co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, Fr Brendan Hoban, said while it was predictable, it is still disappointing. He expressed, “The sense is that a door has been slammed rather than a growing sensitivity to the pastoral care of LGBTQ Catholics being encouraged or facilitated.”

Across the world, Church members are standing against the Vatican’s ruling. In Cork, a representative of the Association of Catholic Priests, Fr Tim Hazlewood, said he would bless the union of same-sex couples despite the Vatican ruling it out this week, stating, “If Christ was with us now, he would do the caring, the loving thing.”

Speaking with RTE Morning Ireland, Fr Hazlewood shared, “Our experience is that they are lovely couples and to hear something like that, that their relationship is sinful, I wonder how many of them know and meet and interact with those families and those people.”

“In Ireland, we’re going to have a synod in the next five years and the bishops have said they want people on the margins to be part of that, would any gay person come near a church that says things like this?” Fr Hazlewood continued. 

On Wednesday, March 17, former priest and LGBTQ+ activist Andrés Gioeni delivered a letter disavowing his faith to a Buenos Aires suburb bishopric in protest of the Vatican’s statement. He left the Church on the anniversary of his ordination as a priest in 2000 and two days after the declaration from the Holy See.

Speaking on the Vatican’s statement, Gioeni said, “I do not want to continue being an accomplice to this institution, because I realize the harm they are doing to people. I am not renouncing my faith in God but rather I am renouncing a role and a rite.” 

Reflecting on his experiences of advocating for a more open Church and blessing at least four same-sex unions, Gioeni called out the Vatican’s discriminatory stance, “There is no mention in any book (of the Bible) of consensual love between two people of the same sex and God telling them no.”

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