Ireland's former President Mary McAleese has urged Cardinal Keith O'Brien to share his life story in order to help gay people who have felt the need “to pretend to be heterosexual”.
Cardinal O'Brien became one of Britain’s most vocal opponents to gay marriage and gay relationships but he hastily stood down as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh last year after admitting to sexual misconduct with five men.
Speaking at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Mrs McAleese said that O'Brien's story could be "of great assistance to gay people, not just in the Church but elsewhere" who are wrestling with their sexuality and the Church's teaching.
Mrs McAleese has previously voiced concern about the high suicide rate among gay Irish males.
She suggested that Cardinal O'Brien, who led the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh for 27 years, had used a technique typical of closet homosexuals of speaking "in the most homophobic way" to divert attention from himself.
He had described civil partnerships as "harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved" and gay marriage as a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right" of a child to a mother and a father.
Mrs McAleese, president of the Republic from 1997 to 2011, also criticised the Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality, saying that the issue was "not so much the elephant in the room but a herd of elephants".
She singled out the writings of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. "Things written by Benedict, for example, were completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding, and to the understanding of most Catholics nowadays in relation to homosexuality,” she said. “Nowadays, it is not something that is perceived as something that is intrinsically disordered. Homosexual conduct is not seen as evil."
Mrs McAleese continued: "I don't like my Church's attitude to gay people. I don't like 'love the sinner, hate the sin'. If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that? We also know that within the priesthood a very large number of priests are gay."
A referendum on same-sex marriage will be held in Ireland in 2015.
You can watch Mrs McAleese's lecture here.