Thursday, July 04, 2024

Ireland’s Former President Delivers Hopeful, Pro-LGBTQ+ Sermon for Pride

The former president of Ireland, who is a prominent pro-LGBTQ+ Catholic, delivered a sermon last weekend advocating inclusion, part of the nation’s wider celebrations of Pride.

Mary McAleese, who has a gay son and is also a canon lawyer, preached at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, an Anglican worship place, for the community’s Choral Evensong marking Pride. 

McAleese told the congregations that the Christians who have worshipped at the church for nearly a millennium often have heard Scriptures’ exhortation to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and yet they also witness “time and again what happens when hatred rules human hearts.”

Many at Evensong were harmed by others’ failure to love, McAleese said, and the stories of that harm are carried into families, communities, and churches. She singled out Ireland’s past history of criminalizing homosexuality, a reality today in other parts of the world, commenting, “in this overwhelmingly Christian country there can be no doubt that the racists, homophobes and misogynists will all have heard the words of the great commandment to love one another. They have ignored them, or worse still edited them cynically.” 

Ireland is still marked by incidents of anti-LGBTQ+ violence, she noted. So, too, the Catholic Church has many shortcomings regarding LGBTQ+ people.

Though McAleese was cognizant of the challenges LGBTQ+ people face, she was largely hopeful, about the ways Ireland has changed and the ways the church can do so, too. She offered a personal anecdote to illustrate this idea:

“That Ireland has changed and changed profoundly came home to me in a very special way just a few weeks ago. I was coming back from Rome where the Vatican was reeling from the hostile global reaction to Pope Francis’ repeated homophobic locker room language. The shock and pain of my gay friends and family,  both lay and clerical, was just plain awful. I had texts and emails from many saying how tested they were in their faith. I knew how they felt. . .

“It was in precisely that mood of dejection and frustration that my husband and I disembarked the plane and entered Dublin Airport Terminal 2. The place was decked out in rainbows, wall to wall rainbows, proclaiming this month of Pride in Dublin, saying loud and clear that Dublin, that Ireland, is a place that has Pride’s back, that is proud of Pride and all it stands for. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed with joy. Here was love in action. Here was proof positive of the power of love and the power of Pride in pushing the LGBTIQA+ community from hiding in the wings of life to centre stage.  Everyone exiting that airport, heading East or West, North or South could be left in no doubt that God’s people will do whatever it takes for however long it takes to fulfil the law of love.”

McAleese celebrated the gains already made, too, calling today’s Irish citizens “a fortunate generation to have had that miraculous day of grace in 2015 when the voters of Ireland overwhelmingly endorsed same sex marriage.” She continued:

“Of all the decades we could have lived in, this one, though it could be better, is better than most. That is thanks to the courage and sacrifice of those who first lifted the Pride banner fifty years ago in very hostile times. Small in number then, they refused to settle for laws, attitudes, biases and language that rendered them second class citizens, made them vulnerable to violence, prejudice and untold and unnecessary  heartache. They brought out into the open the damage visited upon them by the prejudice and hate-filled language that had been festering, unchallenged in  private, safe spaces and had made toxic the public space whether streets or laws or encounters.

“Pride helped to change attitudes, change Ireland. Pride has grown  so exponentially that this is by far the best decade for LGBTIQA+ men and women in our country but in no way can anyone who proclaims the commandment to love one another settle for the way things are for there is a long road yet to travel to that place where love triumphs and proves its worth. If the best is yet to come it will take more courage, more work, more Pride gatherings, more solidarity until all that miserable hatred is squeezed out by Pride, by lived love of neighbour.”

Earlier last week, members of We Are Church Ireland lived out that commitment to love their neighbors by participating in Dublin’s 50th Pride parade. 

The members also gathered outside of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in the city, which recently expelled a gay men’s chorus from performing there. 

Though the church’s doors were closed and gates were locked, the faithful gathered sang welcoming hymns amid rainbow decor.

Celebrating Pride with prayer at Christ Church was, for McAleese,  “a statement of intent about the next one thousand years. To the extent that we can, we will insist on the right of all of us to [receive] love, . . . respect, . . . equality, to be free from wrongs inflicted by ignorance, bigotry and abuse of the gospel and to call it out wherever it appears.”

So, likewise, are Catholics’ celebrations of Pride, wherever and whenever they occur.