LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Baptizing babies is a violation of their human rights, according to the former president of Ireland.
Mary McAleese, who served in the largely ceremonial role of president from 1997-2011, also said she would not attend the Aug. 22-26 World Meeting of Families taking place in Dublin.
She told the Irish Times the event, which Pope Francis will attend Aug. 25-26, will only serve as a “political rally” for the “reinforcement of orthodoxy.”
McAleese told the newspaper that by baptizing children before they have reached the age of reason, the Church is creating “infant conscripts who are held to lifelong obligations of obedience.”
“You can’t impose, really, obligations on people who are only two weeks old and you can’t say to them at seven or eight or 14 or 19 ‘here is what you contracted, here is what you signed up to’ because the truth is they didn’t,” she said.
Declaring that in the past “people didn’t understand that they had the right to say no, the right to walk away,” the former Irish president said “we live now in times where we have the right to freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, freedom of opinion, freedom of religion and freedom to change religion. The Catholic Church yet has to fully embrace that thinking.”
McAleese is a practicing Catholic who holds a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Her book Quo Vadis? Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law was published in 2012.
In recent years, she has become vocal in her opposition to Church teachings on homosexuality and women’s ordination.
In February, she was scheduled to speak in the Vatican at an event sponsored by Voices of Faith, but Irish-born American Cardinal Kevin Farrell – the head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life – vetoed her appearance.
The organizers of the event – which had taken place annually in the Vatican since 2014 – moved the event to the nearby Jesuit headquarters, and asked McAleese to become the keynote speaker.
McAleese, speaking at a We Are Church event at Gonzaga College in Dublin June 16, said she had voted Yes in the May 25 referendum that removed pro-life protections for the unborn from the Irish constitution, despite holding pro-life positions earlier in her career. She also said her vote was “not a sin,” in reference to a bishop’s remarks that Catholics who voted Yes needed to go to confession.
In her interview with the Irish Times, she said, “My human right to inform my own conscience, my human right to express my conscience even if it is the case that it contradicts the magisterium, that right to conscience is supreme.”
Although not attending the World Meeting of Families, McAleese told the newspaper she would attend the June 30 Dublin Pride march.
The event has the theme “We Are Family,” in reference to the Vatican-sponsored event.
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said the World Meeting of Families will be inclusive, and open to all families.