Mary McAleese, the former president of the Irish Republic, has criticised the Church for ‘imposing’ the Sacrament of Baptism.
In a lecture at Trinity College Dublin, McAleese said that Baptism involves “the imposition of lifelong membership which can never be rescinded”, and that this contradicts human rights law, under which a child should have the right to consent to such membership.
Also last week, controversy broke out over McAleese’s criticisms of John Paul II at an event on October 30.
What McAleese said about baptism
McAleese’s lecture was entitled “The Future of Ireland: Human Rights and Children’s Rights”. She said that, while parents have the right to have their child baptised, “the juridic consequences which are bolted on to baptism by man-made canon law are a different matter.”
McAleese argued that baptism involved the parents making promises on behalf of the child, but “the child could not have been aware of the promises or their import”. Since baptism makes the child a lifelong member of the Church, McAleese argued, it interferes with “the child’s right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion” by “imposing a body of obligations” without consent.
The Twitter user Chateaubriand quipped: “Wait until she finds out about citizenship, jury duty, conscription, taxes – or really any civil law backed by the threat of fines and imprisonment.”
What she said about John Paul II
In a public discussion on October 30, McAleese read from a passage written by then-bishop Karol Wojtyła in 1960. The future pope, writing about the philosophy of the sexual act, observed that as a biological fact, it can take place without a woman being conscious.
McAleese said this passage “sounds like rape”, and that it illustrated how the Church treats women. She expressed her dismay that John Paul had been canonised.
A storm of criticism followed. The philosopher Catherine Kavanagh told the Irish Catholic that John Paul had “described a purely biological fact of sexual intercourse, before going on to reject it completely as a paradigm of human sexuality”. McAleese had misrepresented the pope, Kavanagh said.
McAleese defended her use of the quotation, saying it was an “analogy”.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.