29Sep Quo Vadis? — Mary McAleese speaks

Mary McAleese, the former President of Ireland, gave an interview on Today with Pat Kenny on Fri 28 September

Listen here:

Today with Pat Kenny 28 Sept

 

22 Responses

  1. Mary O Vallely

    Thank God that Mary McAleese is still a Catholic because I believe that change will only happen from within the church. I agree with everything she says here. The erosion of trust would not have been so severe if better lines of communication had been in place and it is a sad fact that collegiality has been allowed to “die on the vine.” I don’t want to indulge in the habit of bishop bashing and it serves no purpose to be always negative but surely the sheer number of bishops in synods and conferences could start to move things along, could advocate for some mechanisms by which serious issues could be discussed? We must not wait for our leaders to open up debate but avail of every opportunity – make opportunites – to raise awareness of all these important issues. Start from the grassroots up.
    The sickening reality is that the most heartbreaking problem we have in Ireland is that of young gay male suicide and she is right in bringing that fact to public attention. It needs to be tackled. To think that Jesus rescued people from their marginalisation, that he accepted them as friends and to contrast this attitude with the official church’s attitude towards the marginalised would make one weep in rage and frustration.
    Thank you for posting this interview and I look foward to reading the book and to hearing doors open in episcopal palaces, parochial houses and everywhere the faithful gather. Let us talk!
    Mary V

    P.S. By “marginalised” I was thinking of those of same sex orientation and not the poor and the downtrodden throughout the world. The CC has a wonderful record of mirroring Christ’s love and compassion towards the poor.

  2. Pádraig McCarthy

    The book, Quo Vadis, by Mary McAleese, is about Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law (168 pages). (It does not deal with homosexuality – this topic was introduced by Pat Kenny in the interview.) It’s due for publication by Columba on Monday 1 October, and official launch on 20 October.

  3. Gene Carr

    I found this interview disappointing in that McAleese’s responses were so utterly predictable and strictly within a circumscribed range of “approved and accepted opinions” –as applauded and echoed by every favoured outlet. Pat Kenny as usual asked her no tough or challenging questions. They spent the interview cooing at each other agreeably as if their opining had the status of absolutely incontrovertible truths.

    McAleese is of course correct in depicting the Papacy as ‘isolated’ in its teaching on sexuality–indeed it has been since 1968. She concludes that it has ‘lost the argument’. And this seems borne out by the actual practice of most Catholics.

    I am not so sure. And I envy her her certainties. For it is precisely the isolation of the Papacy on this matter at this time that is most intensely interesting. As before in sacred history, this is not the first time that the Papal dog was found to be swimming upstream while much of the world just went with the flow. Is this not like the experience of the Prophets of Israel? Or Christ on the Cross. Could it be that it is precisely the stubborn and intranigent refusal of the Papacy to bow to the mere spirit of the age that makes it a truly prophetic institution.

    Mary McAleese applauds the fact that people now can freely access a wide variety of opinion, facts and research in the free ‘civic space’ and can now challenge the pronouncements of popes and prelates. But it works both ways. It also enables us ordinary folk to challenge the pronouncements of such as Mary McAleese and to bypass the editorial dictatorship of the legacy media, and achieve full freedom of expression.

  4. Joe O'Leary

    “the mere spirit of the age” — we heard that before about slavery, interest on loans, closing the Spanish Inquisition, respecting freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The Vatican is isolated because it refuses open discussion and consultation, that is to say, reason.

  5. Sean Mac Giolla Domhnaigh

    @Gene It takes quite a leap of imagination to compare the vatican on homosexuality to the prophets of Israel or Jesus. As the proverb states: Ní dhéanfaidh an saol capall ráis as asal.’

  6. Eamonn Keane

    I agree with Gene Carr that the widespread and culturally conditioned opposition to papal teaching on various questions may in fact argue strongly for the truth of this teaching. I think it was Malcolm Muggeridge who said: “Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.”

    Eamonn Keane

  7. pew view

    It is true that homsexuality is associated with higher than average rates of suicide. That is also true for psychological problems and addictions. Because things are associated does not mean necessarily that one causes the other. However, we must not bo overly hasty either in deciding that it is social and cultural stigma that is the cause of these higher rates -or the sole cause. In places and countries ( Scandinavia for instance) where there is wide social and cultural acceptance of homosexuality, the same higher than average rates apply. The view that homsexuality falls inside the range of normal behavioural variants is a relatively new one. While it is becoming harder and harder to express a contrary view the Church holds firmly to its line that homosexuality is a ‘disorder’. It should also be evident that the very low incidence of homosexuaity in any population makes finding a compatitible partner extraordinarily difficult. That alone is problematic. Perhaps we should not be over hasty in calling in the jury on the question ?

  8. Ger Gleeson.

    Eamon, there are many “dead fish” within the walls of the Vatican. That is the reason why our Church has lost so much credability with its own members.

  9. Jim Johnson

    It is surely logically impossible to have a situation where the Catholic Church changes its teaching on matters where its view has been clear and consistent for centuries without at the same time admitting either:
    (a) that there is no truth about the matters in question – in which case it has not now, nor ever had, any right to make any pronouncement about the matter; or
    (b) that it was wrong in the past about the matters in question – and therefore did not in the past have the means of knowing the truth (which begs the question as to precisely what has changed now and when this change occurred).

    All of this talk about “collegiality” ignores this reality and is really an irrelevant sideshow. Even if the decision making procedure were to alter in the Church the decisions themselves would have to be consistent with Tradition. If they were not, the Church would forfeit its title to be the purveyor of Truth and would therefore be implicitly telling the faithful not to pay a blind bit of notice to it. The result of this is chaos and implosion of the organization (as can be seen in the case of the Anglicans who are, in the opinion, I suspect, of any reasonable person, no model to emulate).

    These issues are so obvious that I am surprised views like Mrs McAleese’s ever get an airing amongst people who profess themselves to have the interests of the Church at heart.

  10. Joe O'Leary

    Jim Johnson, this debate has happened several times already on this website. Recognition of love between people of the same sex has deep roots in Catholic tradition. Valorization of sex as good rather than as reflecting the disorder of original sin has prevailed in twentieth century Catholic thought. There is both continuity and discontinuity with tradition. This is called Development. For basic orientations in this area, read Curran, ed. Change in Official Catholic Moral Teaching, and Noonan, The Church that Can and Cannot Change.

  11. Joe O'Leary

    pew view plays objectionably with statistics — imagine if he had written in the same style of suicide rates among Jews. (That his statistical claims are incorrect or at least controverted is a minor consideration; see Eric Holland, The Nature of Homosexuality.)

    In any case it is evident that the increased acceptance of openly gay folk and of gay couples has lessened the ills about which pew view claims to be concerned.

  12. Joe O'Leary

    Oops, I should not have referenced the E. Holland book — it is insane NARTH-like propaganda.

  13. Martin Murray

    Re 9 – If we were really as wise as we claim to be, then we would be open to learn from others including our Anglican brothers and sisters. Lessons in humility or even diplomacy, might be a good place to start.

  14. pew view

    Joe O Leary seems to have difficulty registering the inconvenient fact and so tries to attack the messenger instead since bare statistics cannot be accused of bigotry, racism or any other ‘ism’.

  15. Eddie Finnegan

    Great to see the Mayo forward-line back on the ball again! Brendan Hoban, both in his recent book and in today’s ‘Rite&Reason’ column in the IT, is totally right. If the members of Ireland’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference had a titter of wit (pardon my ulsterism!) wouldn’t they get into a huddle with the Papal Nuncio in Cabra, Maynooth, Armagh, Drumcondra or the Regency Hotel to co-opt Mary McAleese onto their terna for Ireland’s first lay cardinal? She doesn’t need a red biretta or even a cappa magna; her dress sense for the big occasion, while not up to the catwalk standards of the Ray Card Burke ‘Signatura’ label, has always been pretty impressive. And why not a touch of electric blue to break the monotony of serried scarlet ranks?
    .
    And if the lads in Rome had a real life-wish rather than an apparent death-wish for the Church, wouldn’t they be proactively seeking out, from every local church across the globe, say, four score lay counterparts for Mary Cardinal McAleese in good time for the next consistory and certainly well before the next conclave? While Mrs McAleese makes the point that “governance and power within the Church are intrinsically linked with holy orders and holy orders are intrinsically linked with men and men’s thinking,” the cardinalate in itself is quite extrinsic to holy orders though not, alas, to our peculiarly male thought processes. Once they get rid of two or three non-essential little items in Can.351#1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and re-jig Can.129##1&2 ever so slightly, what’s to stop them welcoming the new lay ‘purpurati/ae’ with open arms or even, Italian fashion, ‘con un forte abbraccio’? [Steady on Eddie – we’re talking here about celibate Roman celebs of a certain age and era.]
    .
    But Mary McA has not made it easy for us or herself. She certainly “has previous”, as her old Phoenix Park neighbours san Garda Síochána might put it. A month into her presidency she was already acting suspiciously, practising ‘communion with Christ Church and communion with one another’ long before it was either popular or prophetable (sic). Cardinal Connell thought that was a shame and a ‘sham’, which seemed almost more dismissive of the validity of Anglican ordinations than Pope Leo XIII’s “absolutely null and utterly void” one hundred and one years earlier. Yet the Cardinal had the backing of canon law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A year later, Cardinal Ratzinger included Leo XIII’s judgement among those truths to be held definitively.
    QUERY: If President McAleese had waited till 2008 to receive the Eucharist at Christ Church from Dean Dermot Dunne – a Maynooth man and ordained Catholic priest – could her act of intercommunion be condemned as a sham? In Leonine and Ratzingerian terms, the “form and intention” of Dermot’s ordination make his eucharistic celebration as valid as Desmond Connell’s or Diarmuid Martin’s or the Papal Legate’s. Just a passing thought! Anyway, Mary didn’t wait.
    .
    It wasn’t Desmond Connell’s response that left me so conflicted in late 1997, much less the muffled “we-don’t-want-to-embarrass-the-President-but-still-and-all-what-about-canon-law-and-we-hope-it-won’t-arise-again” sort of noises from the Bishops’ spokesman. No, it was the letter to ‘The Irish News’ in Belfast that knocked me back a bit. The one that accused McAleese of being out to embarrass the Catholic Church with her “liberal, do-it-yourself, two-fingers-up-to-the-bishops agenda”. Oh no, Jimmy, I thought, that’s not it at all. But for Professor James McEvoy that was it and for that there could be no excuse, whatever Gabriel Daly and others might say about a legitimate context for inter-communion, or whatever many of us might think about Eucharist as viaticum on the pilgrim path towards unity rather than just a reward for final completion of the ‘ut omnes unum sint’ joint project.
    .
    Jimmy McEvoy is very much in my mind and heart today, Oct 2nd, his second anniversary. Not the brilliant academic who devoted a life’s scholarship to the Franciscan Bishop Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln & Oxford, of whom we knew nothing; or the professor with his Chairs of Scholastic Philosophy in Belfast, Louvain, Maynooth and Belfast again. No, just Jimmy the friendly classmate from Down & Connor whom I studied with for less than a year and only met every twenty-five years or so thereafter. Even for our last get-together in 2008 at Maynooth and Enfield his classical violin was still shape-shifting into a diddly-di fiddle and somewhere in between for an Ó Ríada Mass. For our 2010 ‘do’ in Kavanagh Country and Armagh his cancer was too far advanced. Next June at Maynooth & Carton we’ll talk about him again.
    The same Jimmy who wrote from Maynooth in’The Irish News’: “I would find it repugnant if she should ever again abuse the august office which she occupies in a way which would once more embarrass the Catholic Church, by giving scandal to its members. Maybe the time has come for her to build another bridge, one that will bring her back to her fellow-Catholics.”
    That’s just how a Nor’n Catholic, when he’s ‘riz’, advises ano’r Nor’n Catholic who’s lost the run of themselves and who’s a woman.
    .
    Jimmy’s looking over my shoulder at what I’m typing, in his old companionable way but sniffing a bit at this ACP website. He died a fortnight after the ACP launched – merely a case of ‘post hoc’ rather than ‘propter hoc’. I don’t know whether Mary and Jimmy ever met up later to thrash it all out. I don’t know what he would have made of her Pat Kenny interview or her “I wasn’t elected a Catholic President but President for all the people” position as a reason to take communion at Christ Church.
    For myself, any embarrassment to the Catholic Church may have been to the “Catholic Church” in inverted commas rather than to the Catholic Church in its ordinary members. Any scandal perceived may have been, not scandal in any real stumbling-block millstone-deserving sense, but scandal of the “not-in-front-of-the-simple-faithful / children / neighbours” variety. With Mary O.V. above, I thank God that Mary McA is still a Catholic, and any bridge she can build “back to her fellow-Catholics” should be to encourage us to venture across. Jimmy from Larne and Mary McA from Belfast are both very familiar with the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge on the Antrim coast. It’s not for the fainthearted. Jimmy may remind me that Rome’s bridge-builder high priest – Pontifex – was masculine gender only, but then so is ‘cailín’ and ‘Maedchen’ is neuter. Seems to me that a Rome that couldn’t find leadership roles, even in its “nineteenth century monarchical model”, for a man like Jimmy McEvoy or a woman like Mary McAleese maybe wouldn’t deserve a future. ‘Quo vadimus?’ indeed.

  16. Joe O'Leary

    Nice to hear Jim McEvoy remembered — as I remember his kindness and culture in his student days.

    “It should also be evident that the very low incidence of homosexuaity in any population makes finding a compatitible partner extraordinarily difficult.”

    I wonder where pew view got this piece of culture war rhetoric from. It’s a new idea to me. The smallest villages in the world manage to stage quite a few boy-meets-girl romances and happy marriages despite limited population. And of course “the very low incidence of homosexuality in any population” is another pseudo-fact that would take on a semblance of possibility only where gay folk hide their “disorder” as no doubt pew view would wish.

    Btw, I did not accuse pew view of “bigotry, racism or any other ‘ism’” but simply remarked that his use of (dubious) statistics was “objectionable”, as would be apparent if the target were blacks or Jews.

  17. Jim Johnson

    @Joe O’Leary:

    Yes, there has never been an embargo on friendship (even strong friendship) between people of the same sex: this proposition is uncontroversial. That the sexual urge is God-given and therefore good in itself may also be admitted. These two propositions taken in conjunction, however, provide no warrant in logic for the conclusion that same-sex sexual activity is therefore a good as I am sure you are well aware. A thing is good because it is willed by the creator; when we ourselves do what is good we treat a thing in accordance with the purpose the creator has given it; we conform our wills to his will whatever our personal preferences may be in the matter. To act in a manner which is inconsistent with the creator’s will cannot be described as acting well.

    As regards your third point, there may indeed be development in terms of the magisterium. New situations may arise, for example, the creation of test-tube babies, which require the Church to make a definitive pronouncement. That proposition, too, therefore, as far as it goes, is uncontroversial. In these cases the Church proceeds by extending the grounding principles of natural law in a manner that is consistent with reason and that is, in essence, conservative. What is controversial, however, is the view that “development” is unconstrained by what has gone before; that the Church is sovereign in the way that, for example, the British Parliament is sovereign, and that it therefore has the capacity to alter doctrine so that what was formerly accepted unequivocally as the Truth is now no longer the Truth. That view of the Church’s capacities is erroneous and is quite rightly rejected, for if this view were accepted it would have the consequences I outlined in my former comment.

    @ Martin Murray:

    I am at a loss to understand this point. Are you suggesting that the Church should simply change its views in line with whatever the latest fashion might be? What happens when different fashions obtain in the same society? Which of them should we adopt? Are you suggesting that the Church doesn’t have the truth currently? Assuming that your answer to the last question is “yes”, who does have the truth and how are we to recognise it?

  18. Joe O'Leary

    “provide no warrant in logic for the conclusion that same-sex sexual activity is therefore a good as I am sure you are well aware.”

    The new Vatican teaching, since 1986, is that the orientation itself, irrespective of sexual activity, is objectively disordered. The document, on the Vatican website (“Homosexualitatis Problema”), claims to be in accord with the best findings of the human sciences. This is a highly implausible claim.

    ” A thing is good because it is willed by the creator;”

    No, a thing is good because being is intrinsically good. At least that would be the metaphysical vision of Augustine and Aquinas, and it is a wholesome vision that creates great serenity and optimism. Augustine has a touch of residual manicheanism in some of his remarks on sex, but his basic philosophy is powerfully anti-manichean: “They are not well in their wits to whom anything that Thou hast created is displeasing” (Confessions VII). Prima facie, the homosexual orientation looks like something God has created. Again it is highly implausible to see it as a disorder produced by Original Sin.

    “To act in a manner which is inconsistent with the creator’s will cannot be described as acting well.” Well, as you know, the Church once viewed slavery as in accord with the creator’s will and taking interest in money as inconsistent with the creator’s will.

    “there may indeed be development in terms of the magisterium… In these cases the Church proceeds by extending the grounding principles of natural law in a manner that is consistent with reason and that is, in essence, conservative.”

    Quite, which is why Catholic advocates of gay marriage claim to be making a conservative case.

    ” What is controversial, however, is the view that “development” is unconstrained by what has gone before”

    which these advocates do not claim. Thez build their case on Catholic estimations of marriage and sexuality as a good, and on the currently regnant Catholic idea of the primacy of love.

    “that the Church is sovereign in the way that, for example, the British Parliament is sovereign, and that it therefore has the capacity to alter doctrine so that what was formerly accepted unequivocally as the Truth is now no longer the Truth.”

    Of course the Church is sovereign (“Whatever you bind on earth…”) and expresses that sovereignty in General Councils, for example, which define key doctrines or teach new ones. To many, such as Archbishop Lefebvre, the doctrinal teachings of Vatican II seemed to mean that “what was formerly accepted unequivocally as the Truth is now no longer the Truth.” Theologians who have mastered the hermeneutical subtleties of Development, such as Ratzinger, defend the Council against this imputation of discontinuity.

    One might complain that God did not give simple once-for-all definitions of faith and morals in Scripture, thus making centuries of intensive theological controversy unnecessary.

  19. Gene Carr

    Sean Mac Giolla Domhnaigh: My Gaelic is not great, but I gather that you have a rather poor view of donkeys. But you should remember that Our Blessed Lord had a very soft spot for donkeys, as Chesterton’s famous poem atests:

    When fishes flew and forests walked
    And figs grew upon thorn,
    Some moment when the moon was blood
    Then surely I was born.

    With monstrous head and sickening cry
    And ears like errant wings,
    The Devils walking parody
    On all four-footed things.

    The tatered outlaw of the earth
    Of ancient crooked will;
    Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
    I keep my secret still.

    Fools! For I also had my hour;
    One far fierce hour and sweet:
    There were shouts about my ears,
    And palms about my feet.

  20. Jim Johnson

    @ Joe O’Leary

    You refer to the Vatican teaching on homosexuality since 1986.

    The reference to this particular paragraph of the catechism is something of a red herring in the context of this discussion in view of the fact that the Church’s prohibition has always attached to commission of homosexual acts and that therefore it is difficult to see how obiter dicta in relation to the potential aetiology of the characteristics giving rise to the temptation are significant in moral terms. The Church does not appear to have regarded an individual’s natural proclivity toward a particular act as necessarily constituting exculpation where the act itself has been disapproved explicitly on moral grounds. Consider, for example, the case of adultery: a man may have a natural propensity to find women (including married women) attractive, yet this fact does not absolve him from complying with the strictures of the sixth commandment. Equally, if I have a compulsion to shoplift this does not mean that I have a bye-ball where it comes to the seventh. Would you seriously suggest that a man who is attracted to minors should, on the ground that this may hypothetically be an innate characteristic, not be expected to struggle against such behaviour? I believe that any right thinking man would answer that in such cases the obligation to behave appropriately continues to obtain. The vanquishing of temptation in whatever form it presents itself is at the heart of achieving sanctity, indeed, it is its very essence. If this proposition were not accepted there would be little point in articulating the prohibitions contained in the decalogue or in delineating virtue in terms of compliance with them in the first place. Moral standards are there to be striven towards sometimes by dint of great effort – not simply abandoned at the first sign of difficulty. The Church if it were to take a contrary view might as well hang up its hat in metaphorical terms.

    You take issue with the reference to a thing being good because it is so willed by the creator.

    In the case of creatures that are brought into being ex nihilo by the creator (which is unequivocally the case in Christian cosmogony) the much laboured distinction referred to in your comments adds precisely what in terms of this discussion? As regards your point about the significance of orientation see the comments made above.

    You state that you view Catholic advocates of homosexual marriage as making a conservative case.

    I am not sure that your use of the term “conservative” in this context bears any relation to the way the term is customarily used. A conservative interpretation in common parlance refers to an interpretation evincing an absence of abrupt reversals of opinion in relation to a question. I am at a loss to comprehend how you classify the proposals you describe as lacking in novelty when viewed in the light of two millenia of consistent teaching that the very conduct in question is morally impermissible.

    In relation to the issue of sovereignty: your understanding is once again erroneous. The comment does not state that the Church lacks sovereignty; clearly the Church does possess sovereignty in a number of senses. What the comment does is to disavow similarity between the concept of sovereignty as it applies the Church and as it applies in the case of a parliamentary democracy. Whereas the Church is obliged to direct its efforts towards the fulfilment of its primary function of conserving and articulating the deposit of faith it has received from the apostles there is no equivalent obligation in constitutional theory constraining the actions of the Parliament.

  21. Joe O'Leary

    “a man may have a natural propensity to find women attractive” and equally, as you now admit, “to find men attractive”. But the word “disorder” is used specifically of this orientation as distinguished from sexual acts in the document to which I referred (not the Catechism but Homosexualitatis Problema, 1986 — the very title of which might be found offensive).

    “Whereas the Church is obliged to direct its efforts towards the fulfilment of its primary function of conserving and articulating the deposit of faith it has received from the apostles there is no equivalent obligation in constitutional theory constraining the actions of the Parliament.”

    The primary function of the Church is to be the sacrament of salvation by inauguration the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus — this is far more future-oriented than past-oriented.

    Even in its handling of the deposit of faith the Church must use a future-oriented imagination, with the sovereignty given it by Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Since this sovereignty is exercised by human beings it involves consultation, discussion, free decisions, usually collective. I have no interested in comparing this with Parliament or the Dail.

  22. Rory Connor

    We seem to be getting away from one very important issue. Mary McAleese claims that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality may be a factor in suicides by gay teenagers. Pew View states that “It is true that homosexuality is associated with higher than average rates of suicide. ….. In places and countries ( Scandinavia for instance) where there is wide social and cultural acceptance of homosexuality, the same higher than average rates apply.” Joe O’Leary says that these statistics are “incorrect or at least controverted”.
    <>
    HOWEVER it was Mary McAleese who made the allegation and it is up to her or her supporters to supply the correct statistics and the proof. If she blamed Jews or Protestants, would THEY be required to prove that her claims are false? Apart from wishful thinking, has she any proof whatsoever?


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