Former Irish president Mary McAleese has called on the Catholic Church and Pope Francis to end the ban on contraception saying women have been “infantilized and robbed” by the continuing ban.

McAleese is one of 100 Catholic academics from around the world who have signed a "Scholars' Statement," which condemns the contraception ban and will be released in New York tomorrow to coincide with United Nations week.

McAleese stated, “The damage inflicted particularly on the poor, on women, on children, on relationships, on health, on society and not least on the church itself, is a millstone around our necks and we are drowning,” The Irish Times reports.

The Scholars' Statement says the ban “needs to be removed in conscience, in justice and in Christ for, as this Scholars' Statement explains compellingly, it has no basis in divine law.”

McAleese, who was president of Ireland for fourteen years from 1997 to 2011, stated the issue was “personal,” as “the oldest of nine children and one of the 69 live children my mother and her siblings produced. Ours is precisely the kind of large Catholic clan system so beloved of flattering papal documents on the family.”

“Yet while our parents handed on to my generation the baton of a strong but docile Catholic faith, they never encouraged us to have the big families they had.”

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Her generation, she stated, “largely rejected Humanae Vitae's [papal encyclical] ban on artificial contraception, along with it magisterial control over family size. Our small families testify to that.”

McAleese said all around the world “good, decent, faith-filled men and women are infantilized and robbed” by the 1968 papal encyclical of their “God-given right and obligation to make sensible adult decisions in the best interests of their health, their relationships and their children.”

Pope Francis has offered hope that things might change when it comes to contraception, a ban that is ignored by the vast majority of Catholics worldwide.

When asked about contraception during an impromptu press conference on the return journey from his recent trip to Mexico, Francis stated that “Paul VI – the great! – in a difficult situation, in Africa, permitted sisters to use birth control for cases of violence. It’s necessary not to confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy, by itself, with abortion … avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil, and in certain cases, as in that I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”

McAleese has close Vatican ties but has adopted a liberal Catholic stance on issues, most notably supporting the referendum to allow gay marriage in Ireland. One of her twin sons Justin spoke out about his homosexuality at the time of the referendum and was strongly supported by his mother.

She stated at the time that the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality made it “difficult but not impossible” to be a committed Catholic.

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