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Former Irish prime minister and Ugandan LGBTQ advocate barred by the Vatican

Gerard Veldhoven
Gerard Veldhoven - FILE

Refocus with Gerard Veldhoven

The Vatican has barred former Irish Prime Minister, Mary McAleese, from attending a forum that consists of Roman Catholic women who are determined to have more clout within the church. The reason is that her son is gay and as she has been an outspoken critic of the church’s negativity towards the LGBTQ community.

Organizers are shocked and dismayed by this decision as this clearly indicates the Roman Catholic Church is not ready to embrace the LGBTQ folks who are members of the church. Uganda’s LGBTQ activist, Ssenfuka Joanita Warry was also told not to appear at the event, Voices of Faith, a Roman Catholic women’s group that seeks to “empower and advocate for the woman in the church to have a seat at the table of decision making.”

Even as the Association of Catholic Priests criticised the announcement by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastry for the Laity, Family and Life, the decision stands.

This development further demonstrates that the Vatican is not ready to embrace the LGBTQ community in all its aspects, unless Pope Francis and others intervene. That is not likely as the pope himself continually proves to be contradictory on this subject. His reform program offers little if no decisions are forthcoming.

The Roman Catholic Church has made it clear on countless occasions that doctrine regarding LGBTQ issues and acceptance of LGBTQ people, including marriage and adoption, will not change. It’s all, or acceptance is not a reality. As far as McAleese is concerned, as a Catholic, she continues her support of her son and the LGBTQ community at large.

Warry, who is one of thousands of LGBTQ people in Uganda who live in constant fear as same-sex relations are punishable by a long-term prison sentences.

If the pope is serious about reforms, he would be vocal and made his opposition known to countries where prison sentences and death sentences occur under the law. There has been a deafening silence from the Vatican, apart from the occasional statement by Francis, attempting to appease LGBTQ people within his church, no doubt an attempt to keep parishioners. Last year the French government appointed a new ambassador to the Vatican but was rejected by Pope Francis because he is gay.

Another incident, one of many, occurred when a monsignor at the Vatican came out and was immediately fired. Gay men still are not allowed to serve as priests. Similarly, women remain unequal to men. Equality is not one of the Roman Catholic Church’s strong points!

Unless arms open and full recognition is accomplished in the Vatican, the struggles will continue for years to come. There are huge numbers of Catholics in the Western Hemisphere who are frustrated by the lack of progress regarding the acceptance of members of the LGBTQ community, women’s rights and equality to men. Churches are emptying and buildings torn down, mainly due to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church lacks the willingness to let people speak their minds, women continue to be treated as second class citizens and LGBTQ people are viewed with disdain.

A statement from the Association of Catholic Priests, reads as follows, “Our church is paying a high price in pandering such extremes. In our efforts to reform the Church, we simply cannot afford such mixed signals”, referencing to the barring of Mary McAleese, Ssenfuka Warry, and the removal of pictures of same-sex couples. In a strong protest the Voices of Faith group has decided not to hold events at the Vatican again.


Gerard Veldhoven is a former Amherst resident who is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears weekly in the Amherst News. Comments and information:

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