Mary McAleese and all of those former young adult U.S. Catholics…

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Ireland’s former President, Mary McAleese, is no stranger to controversy. This time, however, it’s not of the political sort—which is to be expected—but of the ecclesial sort. Insofar as Mrs. McAleese is concerned, the Church is in denial concerning homosexuality which, she said, is “not so much the elephant in the room but a herd of elephants.”

As a “Visiting Scholar” at Boston College last fall, McAleese provided a hint of her mounting frustration with Church teaching concerning homosexuality and the contradiction that she sees evidencing itself in the clerical pedophilia scandal. In a November 2013 interview with the Boston College Chronicle, McAleese explained that she is pursuing a doctoral degree in canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome to develop “some helpful insight into how this unhappy situation came about.”

…I decided to make it my business to study canon law, something very few laypeople have done. And what I’m most interested in is, how is it that we’ve arrived at a situation in the Church where the increasingly educated laity feels more and more excluded from the discourse that is necessary to run an organization this big and this advanced? And how can we now trust the judgment of the people we’ve learned, to our cost, cannot be trusted in matters of children and abusive priests? Why should they continue to make decisions for the 1.2 billion of us on the same terms as before?

I think that we are entitled to that critical faculty, which is given to us by the Holy Spirit, in the light of what we now know; the false deference, the unadulterated trust—these things were and still are phenomenally dangerous. We need accountability, we need openness, we need rigor, we need to address the people who have decision-making power over us, to show us those decisions are made in our best interests, and crucially, in the light of the best information available.

In an interview with Glasgow’s Herald newspaper published January 07, 2014, McAleese expounded upon those thoughts:

Things written by Benedict, for example, were completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding, and to the understanding of most Catholics nowadays in relation to homosexuality.

Nowadays, it is not something that is perceived as something that is intrinsically disordered. Homosexual conduct is not seen as evil….

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? We also know that within the priesthood a very large number of priests are gay.

McAleese also drew a ­comparison with the Church’s attitude to Jews: “It took almost two millennia formally to revise the ‘Christ-killer’ slander which had been repeated down the decades.”

McAleese is particularly chagrined by Cardinal Keith O’Brien who resigned after admitting to inappropriate sexual conduct during his ecclesial career. Of O’Brien, McAleese said:

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.

Instead, McAleese believes, O’Brien had hoped to divert attention from himself by raising his voice “in the most homophobic way.”

So, Mrs. McAleese has embarked on a personal mission to cleanse the Church of its attitude and conduct. She said:

I can’t walk away from the Church, my spiritual home, just like I couldn’t walk away from Northern Ireland, my birthplace. I had to hang in there and see if I could make some sort of contribution. I don’t flatter myself that I’ll be able to do anything in my lifetime, but I also believe that if I don’t help plant the seed, then nothing new will grow.

Mrs. McAleese’s opinions, while generating controversy, happen to be identical to those held by many U.S. Catholics, and especially young adult Catholics. Consider the 2011 Pew Center study’s findings:

  • 32% of U.S. Catholics have left the Church.
  • 48% who are now unaffiliated left Catholicism before reaching age 18. An additional 30% left the Catholic Church as young adults between ages 18 and 23. Only 21% who are now unaffiliated and 34% who are now Protestant departed after turning age 24. Among those who left the Catholic Church as minors, most say it was their own decision rather than their parents’ decision.
  • Among those who were raised Catholic, both former Catholics and those who have remained Catholic, report similar levels of childhood attendance at religious education classes and Catholic youth group participation. Additionally,16% of lifelong Catholics say they attended Catholic high school, somewhat higher than among former Catholics who have become Protestant (16%) but roughly similar to former Catholics who have become unaffiliated (20%).
  • At least 75% of those raised Catholic attended Mass at least once a week as children, including those who later left the Catholic Church. But those who have become unaffiliated exhibit a sharp decline in worship service attendance through their lifetime: 74% attended regularly as children, 44% did so as teens and only 2% do so as adults.
  • 71% of former Catholics who are now unaffiliated gradually drifted away from Catholicism, as did 54% of those who have left Catholicism for Protestantism.
  • 65% of former Catholics who are now unaffiliated stopped believing in Catholicism’s teachings overall, 56% are dissatisfied with Catholic teaching about abortion and homosexuality, and 48% cite dissatisfaction with church teaching about birth control. These reasons are cited less commonly by former Catholics who have become Protestant; 50% stopped believing in Catholicism’s teachings, 23% say they differed with the Catholic Church on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, and 16% say they were unhappy with Catholic teachings on birth control.

In Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell reports:

  • 10% of all adults in America are ex-Catholics (p. 25).
  • 79% of those who have dropped the name “Catholic” and claim no religious affliation of any kind, have done so by age 23 (p. 33).
  • In the early 21st century, among Americans raised Catholic, becoming Protestant is the best guarantee of stable church attendance as an adult (p. 35).

Unlike Mrs. McAleese, young adult Catholics who are disaffected with Church teaching are leaving the Church.

Not that the loss of anyone to the Church is good, this discussion raises the question concerning who’s being more honest. Is it Mrs. McAleese or all of those young adult Catholics?



To read the Glasgow Herald interview, click on the following link:

To read about disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien, click on the following link:

To read the Pew Center study, click on the following link:

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:

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  1. The Church’s sorry behavior on these matters is still costing Her dearly, and understandably so. Yet, it is difficult to read Ms McAleese’s statements without smelling the stench of unbridled arrogance.

  2. “Things written by Benedict . . . completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding, . . . ”

    That’s because now we have behavioral academics/scholarship – credentialed cretins deriving conclusions based on ideology not logic. It relies on anecdotes and stereotypes incorporated with mental, emotional filters to misrepresent and misunderstand data, events, and facts. Now, the academy’s low purpose is to advance the nightmare narrative and provide continual propaganda for progressive prejudices and programs.

    Behavioral academics/scholarship seamlessly imbeds fabrications into facts. In it all reading is arbitrary and personal. A theory cannot be proved only disproven. Behavioral academics invent facts, deny/ignore errors, display arrogance and execrate anybody providing with opposing evidence. For those people truth, facts, realities, and history do not exist. They are clay in their hands. They use them to make a point, to do good as they see it. And whatever they need to twist or omit is justified by their purity of intentions – and they always have the purest of intentions – false but justified.

  3. “Things written by Benedict, for example, were completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding”


    What’s disconcerting is that Ireland got stuck with a President who is a professed Catholic and aspirant canon lawyer who does not realize this is a nonsense statement. And she was supposedly an improvement on the ghastly woman who preceded her.

  4. Apparently, the voters of Ireland have returned to the paganism of their distant ancestors.

    Ms. McAleese has proven herself to be a fool on so many counts. Homosexuality, abortion and birth control are nothing new. I would suggest Ms. McAleese study why the Church opposes these things, but she is too full of herself.

  5. Homosexuality was once defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “arrested development”, sexually, emotionally and mentally. The diagnosis was changed under pressure from the North American Man Boy Love Association. Immaturity, physical, spiritual, and emotional are very core reasons why the Catholic Church cannot marry homosexuals, that is to each other, not only that they cannot consummate the marital act, but they cannot function as normal adults, because of their affliction. Denying their affliction, as they are, does not make it go away.

  6. Former President McAleese’s position on various moral issues is at odds with Catholic teachings. She confuses the Catholic Church with a secular democracy and wrongly concludes that majority opinion prevails; it doesn’t. For the foreseeable future she must work on substituting humility for hubris and respect for the Church in place of condescension.


    To her credit though, she gave an inspiring commencement address at Fordham in May 2010 which was well received. I admire her spirit and vitality as well as her humour….

  7. Instead of her journey to Boston to tell her wrongheaded ideas to hundreds of young people I wish she could spend an afternoon in a round table discussion with the six TAC commenters she is not unintelligent: she needs to get the right input. I hope we can hope someone in her course of study on Rome will be an apolitical truth teller

  8. BRAVO T. Shaw! You have beautifully defined & explained the results on innocent hearts & minds of what we refer to as “psychobabble” in these parts!! I will be reusing your description. 😀

  9. Ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth.

    Good post. Good comments. Ignorant arrogant modernist leader of iniquity, idolatry and perversion.

  10. I frequently find myself recalling Lord Macaulay’s words, “We know through what strange loopholes the human mind contrives to escape, when it wishes to avoid a disagreeable inference from an admitted proposition. We know how long the Jansenists contrived to believe the Pope infallible in matters of doctrine, and at the same time to believe doctrines which he pronounced to be heretical.”

  11. Ireland has pretty much joined post-Christian Europe in abandoning the faith. As in Europe there are still the remnant faithful, but I spent much time there back in the 80’s and it was well on its way imbibing all the liberal mush. But the real challenge is, what are we going to do about those stats that make clear what we already know? That is, we are losing our youth to the dominant secular culture.

  12. She might look no further than the Episcopal Church USA to observe the fruit of the tree of the new seed she wishes to plant in the Catholic Church. That modern experiment has already been run, so to speak. It would be very scientific and rational to consider the results.

  13. Science doesn’t actually say anything… science is the process to try to detect things, and the conclusions she’s drawing are not something science can actually weigh in on.

    Ugh. Sad.

  14. Her comment about few laypeople studying canon law almost sounds conspiratorial, as if the Church hid away canon law and only let the initiated learn what’s in it. Weird. In reality, most people don’t study canon law because they don’t need it. There are lay experts, though.

  15. Modern science? How about basic biology? One man one woman. Procreation. Tsk Tsk, I must get back to my “Dantes Inferno”. Actually I’ll do that AFTER I finish my brush up on “cannon law”.

  16. I don’t know if she is less honest than those who abandon the Church. Maybe she is just less realistic about the chances of the Church changing her teachings. Which just goes to show she has a lesser understanding of the Church than many of those who leave it.

    What I don’t understand is how she decries the abuse crisis in the church, but then wants the Church to abandon the very teachings that, had they been followed, would have thwarted the abuse she decries. It’s like decrying all the killing going on, and proposing to abolish laws against murder as the solution.

  17. Modern science? How about just basic engineering. A male electrical plug cannot be mated with another male electrical plug. A male swagelock pipe fitting cannot be mated with another male swagelock pipe fitting.

  18. “It’s like decrying all the killing going on, and proposing to abolish laws against murder as the solution.”

  19. Interestingly, this person is attending one Catholic University and teaching at another. The fact that this woman is a former President of Ireland gives her no special insight into Church teaching, merely notoriety. Our University Presidents and Bishops are wimps. For shame.

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