Mary McAleese to spend retirement challenging Church teaching

Mary McAleese

Ireland’s former president Mary McAleese says blind obedience isn’t enough for people to stay in the Catholic Church.

They are tired of “little old men” who continue to “beat the drum of obedience,” she says.

“I am a person of faith but I am also a person with a thinking brain.”

The hierarchy of the Church is a small, self-serving hermetically-sealed group of men, she says.

Ireland’s former president has vowed to spend her retirement challenging the Magisterium of the Church. It is “essentially the male bishops who regard themselves as the arbitrators of the Church’s teaching,” she says.

“Large chunks of that teaching are appalling… its appalling history of anti-Semitism.”

“It has resiled from anti-Semitism … sooner or later they will resile from sexism and homophobia because science and human rights will interrupt the integrity of their narrative, it no longer has any integrity for me.”

“For me these are issues of human rights, I have a voice and I am going to use it for that purpose.”

A longtime critic of the Church’s position on human sexuality, McAleese says she voted to change Ireland’s constitutional prohibition on abortion in a 2018 referendum.

She says she will continue to challenge Church teachings on homosexuality and women, adding: “What else I am going to do in retirement except make myself useful in that regard?”

McAleese was banned from speaking at a 2018 conference on women at the Vatican, an exclusion that occurred during the papacy of Pope Francis. Both his predecessors had welcomed her to the Vatican.

McAleese – who is a licensed canon lawyer and civil lawyer, has spoken out frequently against misogyny in the Church to no avail.

“I am ignored completely by the Church’s hierarchy. Utterly, absolutely ignored. But that’s ok because they’re only a tiny proportion of the Church. They’re desperately powerful, yes, and they make the rules, yes, but the Church is 1.2 billion people which is why I stay.”

Spirituality is a “deeply beautiful thing” that shouldn’t be tainted by “exclusivity and elitism,” she says.

As the biggest NGO in the world, the Church is hugely influential and a permanent representative at the UN. “No other faith system has that power and influence in the world.”

Ireland’s former president hopes that by staying in the Church, one day her “tiny little voice” will permeate upwards, along with that of many others who, not satisfied with blind obedience, are speaking out.

“The truth of the matter is, people are walking away in droves. They are tired of these old men, trying to beat the drum of obedience, being obedient to teaching that is long past its sell-by date and needs to be revised, needs to be critiqued.”

“We belong to a Church that is wonderful at talking out to the world from its moral pulpit. Wonderful for example on climate change…Pope Francis on migrants. Excellent. On outreach to the poor. Excellent.”

“On women, atrocious. Women in the Church, atrocious. On protections for children who are abused, very weak and lacking in credibility still.”


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