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Catholic paper declines ad for Mary McAleese talk

By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 August, 2014

Former president, Dr Mary McAleese. Pic: courtesy Meath Chronicle.

Former president, Dr Mary McAleese. Pic: courtesy Meath Chronicle.

A catholic newspaper in Australia has come under fire for refusing an ad promoting a talk by former Irish president Mary McAleese next week.

However, the Catholic Weekly has defended its decision not to run the advertisements for the Sydney event featuring Mrs McAleese.

In an interview with the Irish Echo newspaper, the Editor of the Catholic Weekly said the decision was due to Dr McAleese’s reported views on the ordination of women and homosexuality.

Peter Rosengren told the Irish Echo that Mrs McAleese had an “agenda” and that her views were behind the decision to not accept paid ads for the event.

“She is reported as being in favour of ordination of women as Catholic priests and in favour of homosexuality – whatever that actually means,” he said.

“To what extent those reports are true… then no matter how admirable a person she is it places me in some difficulty as editor of The Catholic Weekly [to promote the event].”

The former head of state will be the guest of a Catholic think-tank called Catalyst For Renewal (CFR) which advocates for the establishment of a forum for conversation within the catholic church in Australia.

The group’s aim is to “prompt open exchanges among the community of believers” according to Kevin Grant, President of CFR.

On the matter of the ordination of women, Peter Rosengren commented, “The issue of the Church’s priesthood is one of those issues in the Church that is definitively settled, like, for example, the Church’s belief in the divinity of Christ.”

“For a Catholic newspaper to be promoting a speaker who, for example, is well known as asserting that Jesus was not divine would not only make no sense but would be seen as undermining a foundational belief of the Church.”

“I suspect she and I would be in disagreement, not on a matter of equality for women, but because I think it’s quite clear that men got the consolation prize with the priesthood – only a woman could be the mother of God.

“As a married man in the … Catholic Church, I do not have the right to be ordained either, but I don’t campaign on it as a matter of equality.”

On the matter of homosexuality, he said “neither I nor the Church see homosexuality as a sin, nor homosexual men and women as somehow being not as good as the rest of society.

“The problem is that the Church believes God made man and woman equally in the image and likeness of God’s very self – therefore gender actually has meaning. Homosexuality and other identifications that people may use to describe themselves such as bisexual, transgendered and so on, therefore, in the Church’s view, may obscure for people the meaning of their lives, but the dividing line for the Church is that homosexual acts definitely do,” he said.

“Having previously employed an openly same-sex attracted columnist on an official Catholic newspaper I feel quite entitled to make these observations,” he said.

The editor said he “quite admired” former President McAleese’s reported views on abortion and divorce “both of which I understand she opposes, especially in a global culture that in many places legislates against the right to life of children up until birth and appears bent on re-defining marriage to the point of meaninglessness – with very serious consequences that many people seem not to have reflected on.”

He added: “A newspaper that is an official publication of the Church sometimes needs to be prudent and needs to be prepared to refuse the agendas of anyone who do not understand the Church’s faith in fundamental issues, even if this may sometimes be misunderstood, misinterpreted or unpopular. Nor can a paper like The Weekly be seen as endorsing such views – no matter how well-intentioned the speaker.”

The refusal of the newspaper to run the ad has been criticised as another attempt by the agents of the official church to silence those with views they do not agree with.

Fr Tony Flannery, who is a personal friend of Dr McAleese’s, told Friday’s Irish Independent that the refusal was “sad” and “ridiculous”.

Responding to the row, Fr Tony Flannery, who will undertake a speaking tour in the US in the autumn said, “Anybody who thinks that the issue of the ordination of women is settled definitely for all time is living in cloud cuckooland.”

“The reality is that it is being discussed widely right across the world and there is no way that the church is going to be able to stifle that discussion.”

He hit out at Peter Rosengren’s comparison of the teaching on women’s ordination with the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus as “utterly ridiculous”.

According to the Redemptorist priest who has been threatened with excommunication by the Vatican, Dr McAleese, who wrote the Foreword his book, ‘A Question of Conscience’ is a very significant voice in the ongoing debate in the church at the moment.

“It is sad that the official church is not prepared to listen to her more closely rather than trying to silence her or prevent her from speaking,” he said.

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