FORMER Irish president Mary McAleese has called on a disgraced Catholic cardinal from Northern Ireland to come out of his clerical closet and defend homosexuality.
Once the most senior Catholic in Britain, Cardinal Keith O'Brien was forced to resign as Archbishop of St Andrews diocese in Scotland
last year after admitting that he had homosexual relationships with
other priests – despite being a staunch opponent of gay marriage and gay
The Co Antrim man's opposition to gay marriage earned him the 'bigot of the year' award from the gay rights group Stonewall.
During a lecture at the Royal Society of Edinburgh,
Mrs McAleese told the crowd that the Ballycastle native had, like so
many closet homosexuals, acted "in the most homophobic way", and should
speak out on behalf of gay people.
"I would have thought Cardinal
Keith O'Brien, in telling the story of his life – if he was willing to
do that – could have been of great assistance to gay people, not just in
the church but elsewhere, who felt over many, many years constrained to
pretend to be heterosexual while at the same time acting a different
life," she said.
Mrs McAleese called on the Catholic Church to
rethink its stance on homosexuality and claimed the church is in denial
when "a very large number of priests are gay".
"I don't like my
church's attitude to gay people. I don't like 'love the sinner, hate the
sin'. If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that?"
She also told the audience of her shock at the response
of the Papal Nuncio in Dublin, when she presented him with the research
and was asked: "What do you want me to do? Do you want us to turn our
back on tradition?" to which she responded: "Yes, if it's wrong".
comments have been welcomed by the Irish Association of Catholic
Priests, a group known for speaking out against the church
"Good on her," Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery said.
"We very much welcome the comments of Mary McAleese in relation to the teachings of the church on homosexuality," he added.
Fr Flannery said he previously got into trouble when he refused to condone the church's teaching on homosexuality.
was right in saying that [Pope] Benedict's comments on homosexuality as
something 'disordered' were unhelpful," Fr Flannery added.
her speech, Mrs McAleese said that homosexuality with regard to
Catholicism has long been "not so much the elephant in the room, but a
herd of elephants".