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Gay issue like ‘herd of elephants’ in room for Catholic church

Disgraced cardinal's story could be 'great' help to gay people, former president says

Former Irish president Mary McAleese says that disgraced cardinal Keith O'Brien's life story could be of "great" help to those who struggle with accepting their sexuality. Credit:

Former Irish president Mary McAleese has suggested that disgraced cardinal Keith O'Brien's life story could be of "great" help to people who have felt the need to lead double lives rather than admit that they are gay, the Herald Scotland reports.

McAleese, who served as Ireland's president from 1997 to 2011, made the remarks in a lecture to the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

O'Brien, who was Britain's most senior Catholic leader until his resignation early in 2013 in the midst of accusations of "inappropriate acts" with a number of priests, admitted to and apologized for his sexual conduct.

"There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal," O'Brien, a vocal opponent of gay rights, said in a statement released last March. "To those I have offended I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic church and people of Scotland, I also apologise. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic church in Scotland."

According to the Herald Scotland, McAleese said that for the Catholic church, the issue of homosexuality is like "a herd of elephants" in the room and claimed that there are a "very large number" of gay priests in the priesthood.

She also said she's not a fan of the often-cited advice of "love the sinner, hate the sin" and criticized the former pope, Benedict XVI, for his anti-gay pronouncements, saying they were "completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding," as well as in conflict with how many Catholics now view homosexuality.

The Irish Times says her comments were welcomed by the Association of Catholic Priests. The association's Father Tony Flannery told the Times that the church's stance on homosexuality is in "serious need of reform."