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I was 'profoundly hurt' when Vatican tried to exclude me from event, reveals McAleese

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Former President of Ireland Dr Mary McAleese. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Former President of Ireland Dr Mary McAleese. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Former President of Ireland Dr Mary McAleese. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Former President of Ireland Dr Mary McAleese has hit out at the Vatican for its "profoundly hurtful" treatment of her and its failure to explain its reason for attempting to block her from a conference there last year.

At a conference on 'Women and the Church: Equality of Opportunity?' in DCU on Saturday, which was hosted by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), Dr McAleese said: "I've had the experience in recent times of being excluded. To be told a year ago that I was persona non grata in the Vatican, I found that so profoundly hurtful."

She said no explanation was given by the Vatican for the attempt to exclude her as a speaker, even though she asked for one, and she said this was "deeply hurtful".

She added that it was also "deeply discourteous" to Ireland that a former president of the country, which was hosting a global church event in the World Meeting of Families and a Papal visit, should be treated like that by the prelate organising these events.

"It seemed to me to be quite deliberate," Dr McAleese said.

Dublin-born Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who is prefect at the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, had overall responsibility for the World Meeting of Families and the Papal visit.

It was Cardinal Farrell who objected to Dr McAleese's inclusion on the list of speakers for the Voices of Faith conference in March 2018.

The organisers of the event refused to exclude Dr McAleese and opted instead to hold the conference at an alternative venue outside the Vatican.

However, Dr McAleese said she would never put her exclusion by the Vatican in the same league as the treatment of censured Irish priest Fr Tony Flannery, who on Vatican orders has been out of ministry since 2012. She said he had suffered "egregiously", as had the deceased theologian Fr Sean Fagan, who was also censured by the Vatican.

Fr Roy Donovan of the ACP told the conference: "The Catholic Church has no future unless the structures that exclude women are changed to provide equal opportunities."

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He said the continued exclusion of women in modern times was "abnormal".

"We face a massive battle for women's equal opportunities because there doesn't seem to be enough goodwill or energy among the top men in our Church to bring about change."

Dr McAleese was challenging the institutional Church to "wake up", Fr Donovan said, because "in its current state, it cannot survive".

For canon lawyer Dr McAleese, change will come from the "people of God" and this was demonstrated by the same-sex marriage referendum where 70pc of the people who voted in favour were Catholic despite the opposition of the official Church.

She said the Church's teachings in relation to homosexuality were "intrinsically disordered and flawed".

Dr McAleese was heckled by some members of the audience who told her she was on "the path to hell" for her "sinful disobedience", her support for LGBT rights, and they told her to leave the Church if she didn't like its teachings.


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