"Former Ireland President, Dr. Mary McAleese, has questioned the Vatican's authority over Catholics, stating that it "belongs to an old disintegrating empire of generals and conscripts" and is both "legally and morally questionable."
Dr. McAleese, president from 1997 to 2011, was speaking in Rome at Spirit Unbounded, a lay-led synodal process involving over 40 Catholic reform organizations, concurrent with the Vatican Synod on Synodality.
She suggested a church failure to modernize its internal governance, teachings, and laws to respect human rights, which she describes as "God’s inalienable gift to all his children."
The Spirit Unbounded event is often described as "a synodal assembly for the uninvited." Distinguished speakers like Cherie Blair and former Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, also shared their perspectives.
The former president highlighted in her speech that 14 percent of voters at the Vatican Synod were women, with no openly gay individuals.
She criticized the church's teaching that excludes women from ordination, characterizing it as "unscholarly sexist humbug masquerading as threadbare theology."
She also insisted that some of the Church's internal laws are oppressive and do not align with universal human rights standards, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Catholics worldwide, she said, "beginning in the West," were "now actively dismantling what is widely accepted as a dysfunctional magisterial [Vatican] culture and its long list of unchristian teachings. They are doing it from the bottom up, hollowing out misogynistic, homophobic, judgmental, and legalistic hierarchical authority by challenging, ignoring, or bypassing it."
Members at the Vatican synod have not responded to Dr. McAleese's comments.