Former Irish president says her devout gay son was bullied

Ireland’s former president, Mary McAleese, has spoken of her son as a devout young Catholic who was made to feel lonely and was bullied because he was gay.

Mrs McAleese said her son Justin was a “willing and happy” altar boy and an enthusiastic member of his local Catholic youth club.

But he went through “torture” when he discovered what his church taught about homosexuality, Mrs McAleese told the Irish Times.

“When our son came out to us at the age of 21, we at that stage were just broken for him that he, in a gay-friendly household, had not felt able to confide in us his loneliness, the bullying that he was exposed to,” she said.

Mrs McAleese said she had spoken to other parents of gay children “coming from the mortuary” after their children had died by suicide.

Friends of hers had found out their children were gay the night the child had attempted suicide, or were attending the doctor with depression.

She said there was “a lot of homophobia still out there”, but it was a “fading reality”.

Ireland is holding a referendum on legal same-sex marriage on May 22.

The Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality made it “difficult but not impossible” to be a committed Catholic, Mrs McAleese said.

She praised the “phenomenal leadership” shown by a number of Church of Ireland bishops.

The thought of leaving the Catholic Church had come into her mind from time to time, but what had kept her from ever really seriously considering it was the “truly wonderful” late Archbishop Dermot Ryan.

“I detect that same openness in Francis, Pope Francis,” she said.

Mrs McAleese described as a “wonderful thing” Pope Francis’s establishment of a working group on the Church’s teaching on homosexuality that will report to the synod on the family in October.

“I’d like to think that maybe down the line it would change, but believe me, a ‘Yes’ outcome in the referendum will not change Church teaching,” she said.


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