Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality is ‘evil,’ says former Ireland president

Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese has lashed out at the Catholic Church for its “evil” teachings on homosexuality.

But the 67-year-old, who led her country from 1997 to 2011, said she still hoped for a seismic shift from Pope Francis, who earlier this year said gay applicants to the priesthood should be rejected just days after telling a gay man that “God made you like this.”

McAleese’s comments came ahead of the Pope’s visit to Ireland on August 25-26, which will see Taoiseach Leo Varadkar raise LGBT+ rights with the pontiff.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 23: U.S. President Barack Obama and Irish President Mary McAleese shake hands at Aras an Uachtarain, the official residence of the President of Ireland, May 23, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland.  Obama is visiting Ireland for one day. He will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert.  (Photo by Irish Government - Pool /Getty Images)

Mary McAleese and US President Barack Obama (Irish Government – Pool /Getty)

The former President, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights who successfully campaigned for the Yes side in Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum, said she had drawn encouragement from the Pope changing the Church’s stance on the death penalty earlier this month.

McAleese, who was speaking as she accepted the Vanguard Award at the Gaze LGBT Film Festival in Dublin, said that the excuse often given by the Church was that Catholic doctrines were fixed.

The Pope’s comments about the death penalty, she said, had “exploded that myth,” RTE has reported.

Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating a mass during the ecumenical meeting at the World Council of Churches (WCC) at Palexpo hall in Geneva, on June 21, 2018. - Pope Francis visits the World Council of Churches on 21 June as centrepiece of the ecumenical commemoration of the WCC's 70th anniversary. (Photo by MARTIAL TREZZINI / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIAL TREZZINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis greets a crowd in Geneva (MARTIAL TREZZINI/AFP/Getty)

In June, McAleese marched in Dublin Pride with her son and his husband.

At the time, she said: “We are family and that is what we will be showcasing – showcasing Ireland at its absolute best.”

The Pope is coming to Ireland to attend the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic event that has attracted controversy in the country due to its alleged exclusion of the LGBT community.

Pope Francis addresses the crowd on the parvis of the Mary Theotokos Shrine during a pastoral visit in Loppiano, on May 10, 2018 near Grosseto, Tuscany. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

McAleese said she had hope that the Pope could change the Church’s position on homosexuality (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty)

Several Catholic LGBT groups have come forward to allege that they are being deliberately blocked from participating in the event, while materials referring to same-sex couples were removed from a pamphlet ahead of the conference.

Pro-LGBT Catholic group We Are Church Ireland and the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics both alleged this month that their applications for an exhibit booth at the World Meeting of Families were blocked, illustrating the Church’s apparent desire to exclude LGBT Catholics from the “families” conference.

We Are Church Ireland also went public to allege that the group is “being refused an exhibition stand” at the event “because WAC Ireland stands for the full equality of Women and LGBTQI people.”

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 19:  Queen Elizabeth II (R) and Irish President Mary McAleese listen to live classical music as they arrive at the Convention Centre Dublin for an evening of British and Irish music and fashion on May 19, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. The Duke and Queen's visit to Ireland is the first by a monarch since 1911. An unprecedented security operation is taking place with much of the centre of Dublin turning into a car free zone. Republican dissident groups have made it clear they are intent on disrupting proceedings.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

McAleese and Queen Elizabeth II (Oli Scarff/Getty)

We Are Church Ireland said: “Almost fortnightly, we have rung the WMoF inquiring about the status of our application. The constant reply has been: ‘Yes, we received your application but it is on hold.'”

Earlier this year, Varadkar expressed a “hope” that LGBT families would also be celebrated at the event.