Pope Francis accused by Mary McAleese of ‘ludicrous lack of logic’ in comments on women priests

Former president accused Pope of ‘misogynistic drivel’ following interview justifying exclusion of women

Pope Francis has been accused of “misogynistic drivel” by the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, following an interview with a United States-based Catholic magazine where he said women are not being deprived by being denied the right to become priests.

in an interview with the Jesuit publication America, conducted in the Vatican last month, the Pope said: “The church is more than a ministry. It is the whole people of God. The church is woman. The church is a spouse. Therefore, the dignity of women is mirrored in this way.”

“And why can a woman not enter ordained ministry? It is because the Petrine principle has no place for that,” he said. “That the woman does not enter into the ministerial life is not a deprivation. No. Your place is that which is much more important and which we have yet to develop, the catechesis about women in the way of the Marian principle,” he said.

However, the interview prompted a sharp response from Mrs McAleese. In a short email to the Vatican addressed to the Pope, she said: “It was reassuring and gratifying to observe the utter impenetrability of the reasons you offered, their ludicrous lack of logic or clarity, in short the fact that you offered just more unlikely misogynistic drivel.”

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Continuing, she said: “So nothing new then and nothing to fear. Thank you for giving us something to laugh at. If you ever come up with a serious and credible reason please do not hesitate to let us know. Meanwhile keep rambling on. It is such fun and the fun has almost gone out of faith! Best wishes and renewed thanks. Mary McAleese.”

Giving her Roscommon address, she signed the email as Dr Mary McAleese LLB, MA, JCL, JCD, including qualifications in canon law.

Asked in the interview about what he would say to a woman who feels called to be a priest, the Pope said it was “a theological problem.” He said “we amputate the being of the church if we consider only the way of the ministerial dimension of the life of the church. The way is not only (ordained) ministry.”

The “Petrine (from Peter) principle is that of ministry,” he said. “But there is another principle that is still more important, about which we do not speak, that is the Marian principle, which is the principle of femininity in the church, of the woman in the church,” he said.

There was also a third way, “the administrative way,” he said. “It is something of normal administration. And, in this aspect, I believe we have to give more space to women.” At the Vatican “the places where we have put women are functioning better,” he said.

“So there are three principles, two theological and one administrative. The Petrine principle, which is the ministerial dimension, but the church cannot function only with that one. The Marian principle, which is that of the spousal church, the church as spouse, the church as woman. And the administrative principle, which is not theological, but is rather that of administration, about what one does,” he said.

Asked about the abuse issue, he referred to his visit to Ireland in 2018.

“The church takes responsibility for its own sin, and we go forward, sinners, trusting in the mercy of God. When I travel, I generally receive a delegation of victims of abuse.” He recalled “when I was in Ireland, people who had been abused asked for an audience. There were six or seven of them. At the beginning, they were a little angry, and they were right.

“I said to them: `Look, let us do something. Tomorrow, I have to give a homily; why don’t we prepare it together, about this problem?’ And that gave rise to a beautiful phenomenon because what had started as a protest was transformed into something positive and, together, we all created the homily for the next day. That was a positive thing [that happened] in Ireland, one of the most heated situations I have had to face. What should the church do, then? Keep moving forward with seriousness and with shame.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times