Former president Mary McAleese has described the World Meeting of Families taking place next weekend as a “right wing rally”.
She said it was a response against the growing acceptance towards LGBT people in Ireland after photos of same-sex couples were removed from the event’s leaflets.
The former president had hoped the event would be a unifying one based on the theme of inclusion but said it was always designed to fight against gay rights and abortion.
“It's always been essentially a right wing rally... and it was designed for that purpose, to rally people to get them motivated to fight against the tide of same sex marriage, rights for gays, abortion rights, contraceptive rights,” she said.
Ms McAleese said she would only be attending an event at Dublin Castle in her role as a former president but would not be attending any other events to welcome Pope Francis.
The Belfast-native, whose son is gay, has repeatedly spoken out against the exclusion of the LGBT community from the Catholic Church as well as the historic clerical abuse scandals.
The cover up of this abuse “is not only systemic, it was directed from central command and control which is the Vatican,” she told Brendan O’Connor on RTÉ’s Marian Finucane Show.
“It strikes me as impossible to believe that all bishops acted equally negligent by coincidence, that’s the problem.”
Earlier this week a US grand jury report revealed thousands of children were abused by around 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania since the 1940s.
“I read the report from Pennsylvania and it is just so distressing and depressing.
“When I think of all the thousands of children now who are carrying the burden of that and will carry it through their lives because of an institution that they trusted, failed them yet again,” she added.
“Reading it was a horror story. I didn’t sleep very well after reading it the other night.”
She said “one has to assume” the Pope was aware of the abuse outlined in the report which said leaders in the church had “largely gone without accountability”.
“These would have been well known, certainly in the latter days when all of these cases had to be sent to Rome, that he would have been briefed on them.
“You would like to think that he would have been briefed on them, these are so significant when you are talking about 300 abusing priests in six dioceses in the United States.”
In a statement, Pope Francis said he was on the side of the victims mentioned in the report, however, Ms McAleese said “expressions of sorrow” were not enough of a response following centuries of abuse within the Catholic Church.
Mary McAleese also revealed she made a formal complaint to Pope Francis after being banned from attending a Vatican conference in March.
The former president had an invitation to attend an International Women’s Day conference rescinded in February over her support for LGBT rights.
The event in question was organised by the Voice of the Faith group to “empower and advocate for Catholic women to have a seat at the table of decision making in the Catholic Church”.
However, the decision to invite the former Irish head of state was opposed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, which led to the event being held outside of the Holy See.
“I made a formal complaint against Cardinal Farrell, to the Pope, the Pope is the only person as his superior who could rectify and deal with and judge that complaint.
“I made a formal canonical complaint to the Pope about Cardinal Farrell’s actions. Having received neither an acknowledgement nor a reply to date, I can only presume the Pope is his immediate superior, that this was done with his approval.
“They claim there is a process for dealing with such complaints, I’m six months down the road of that complaint and I haven’t had the letter back that says we’ve received your complaint.”
She said she consulted with the Archbishop of Dublin with a view to rectifying the situation ahead of the Pope’s visit for the World Meeting of Families.
However despite efforts which she said continued for three months there was no moving the Vatican’s position.
Pope Francis in Ireland
With less than two weeks to go before the visit of Pope Francis, this Sunday Independent/Kantar Millward Brown poll sought to better understand the opinions of the Irish public toward some of the issues that the Catholic Church is facing today.