President Mary McAleese’s remarks that the Catholic Church is in denial about homosexuality, because many of its priests are gay, were analysed with exquisite detail by Patsy McGarry, of the Irish Times – and author of McAleese biography First Citizen – and a bewildered Seán O’Rourke on his Today show on RTÉ R1 this morning.
Bless the innocence.
Sean O’Rourke:“She’s also telling the paper, or did tell them that a very large number of Catholic priests are gay.”
Patsy McGarry: “Well, this is not new. I mean, in 1997, in March of 1997 she wrote an article for The Tablet, which is the Catholic monthly published in the UK, in which she made the very same point. This was before it was even mooted that she might be a candidate for the Presidency at all, all that happened later on that year…She was talking really about Ireland but, also generally speaking, about the phenomenon, as she knows, that then, of the very high proportion of priests who are gay.”
O’Rourke: “How does she know?”
McGarry: “Well, I mean she’s an acute observer of people, I expect. I never asked her actually why, how she knew..”
O’Rourke: “But I’m just wondering is this based on empirical evidence or her own observations. I mean when she says ‘it isn’t so much an elephant in the room but a herd of elephants’.”
McGarry: “Well there are books, and have been books in the United States, particularly one in 2000 which estimates that half the priests in that country were gay, produced by a former priest himself Daniel [unintelligible]. There have been other such books as well. I mean it’s an understood phenomenon where the church is concerned. One book estimated that a third of bishops in the world, Catholic bishops are gay.”
O’Rourke: “And of course there was that controversy of course last year and there was a report presented to the former pope about allegations of a gay lobby within the Vatican itself.”
McGarry: “That’s true and…in fact there’s a story in the paper today about a Swiss guard who talks about his experiences in the Vatican when he was a Swiss guard there, about being approached by various people, up to and including, a cardinal, for sexual purposes.”
O’Rourke: “So it’s not the only issue, that Mary McAleese has been outspoken and going contrary to the church’s teaching. I mean, I think it’s a long time ago, even before she became president that she tangled with them on the whole question of women priests.”
McGarry: “Yes, it’s true but to go back to the original theme, Sean, she has a strong record when it comes to gay people. I mean when she was in Trinity College, as a professor of law, back in the mid-1970s, she and David Norris set up the campaign for homosexual law reform. And when I wrote her biography in 2008, I talked to her about how she became interested in this issue. And she said when she was a young student in the Seventies, she met a young man in California, when she was on a student job, who was a gay man who was not on the gay scene, didn’t want to be on the gay scene but he lived a very, very lonely life and she was very moved by his experience and it excited her interest in the situation of gay people. And, as president, she also addressed this issue in the context of youth suicide, particularly where young men were concerned.”
Earlier: You Could Always Leave?