Former Irish President Mary McAleese has slammed the Catholic church’s views on homosexuality.

Now studying canon law in Rome, McAleese has also expressed her fears over the growing number of male suicides in Ireland.

Speaking to Irish state broadcaster RTE, McAleese said the Catholic Church and its ‘isolated’ views on homosexuality has left youngster struggling to cope.

Referring to the growth of gay men committing suicide, McAleese said: “They are the victims, one, of homophobic bullying; they are also frankly highly conflicted.”

Now studying in Rome, McAleese added that the church’s attitude to homosexuality has left the vast majority of Irish children who attended Catholic schools deeply confused.

She told broadcaster Pat Kenny: “They will have heard words like disorder, they may have heard the word evil used in relation to homosexual practice.

“When they make the discovery, and it is a discovery and not a decision, when they make the discovery they are gay when they are 14, 15 and 16, an internal conflict of absolutely appalling proportions opens up.

“They may very well have heard their mothers, their fathers, their uncles, aunts, friends use dreadful language in relation to homosexuality and now they are driven into a space that is dark and bleak.”

President of Ireland for 14 years, McAleese revealed she met Papal Nuncio Charles Brown, who represents Pope Benedict XVI in Ireland, shortly after Easter to discuss the issue with him.

She added: “Meaningful progress will not be made until the omerta or code of silence is lifted.

“The child abuse scandals have left a massive hallowing out of trust in the church’s leadership.”

Critical of the Irish bishops for the manner in which they dealt with the issue, McAleese said: “The internal damage done to community, to trust, could in many ways have been avoided had there been much better lines of communication up through the system.”

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