Treatment of women in Catholic church is ‘source of anger’ in Dublin parishes

Vast majority of parishes express hope that women will have meaningful role in governance and ministries, consultation finds

The continued treatment of women as less than coequal with men is a “source of anger as well as of sadness” in the majority of Dublin’s Catholic parishes.

A “vast majority of the parishes” expressed “great hope that women will have a meaningful role in governance and ministries, including becoming deacons and priests” in the future Catholic Church, while they expressed “great openness to married men becoming priests”. They also favour optional celibacy for priests.

These are among the main findings of an extensive consultation process with people in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese as part of a synodal process being undertaken in the church worldwide in preparation for an October 2023 synod of bishops in Rome called by Pope Francis.

Catholics consulted in Dublin also made “a strong plea that the church should become genuinely inclusive not only in word but also in deed, by reaching out to unmarried couples, divorced, remarried, LGBTQI+. The church needs to explore how people can be included and stop looking for reasons to turn people away,” a synthesis of their views has also found.

The report, Synodal Pathway Synthesis: the Archdiocese of Dublin Report, has been published on the Archdiocese’s website dublindiocese.ie.

The consultation process at Ireland’s largest Catholic diocese involved 173 parishes which hosted gatherings for 10,500 participants. These were co-ordinated by 325 animators, with an average attendance at gatherings of between 35 and 40 participants. The largest gathering had 280 participants, while another 2,200 people took part, mainly through focus groups.

This process was launched by Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell last October and the outcome will be presented at a national pre-synodal meeting in Athlone on June 18th where findings from all 26 Irish Catholic dioceses, following similar consultations, will be collated before being sent to Rome next August.

Among Catholics in Dublin “there was a strong voice for urgent change. At the same time, anxiety was expressed that nothing might happen as a result or it might happen too slowly. In particular, there is a consciousness that change may face resistance to renewal from within the church and from clericalism,” the report found.

Fears were also expressed that “once the synodal process has finished, there will be a continuation in the decline that sees a drop in numbers of priests, young people in the church, and no change in the role of women in the church or the option for priests to marry and enjoy family life”.

Language

Many of those taking part also found that “the language in the liturgy is a barrier. The language needs to speak clearly to people, relate to laity and connect with people at Mass,” they said.

Older Catholics in Dublin spoke of their “sorrow, guilt and helplessness about their children not participating in the sacramental life of the church and grandchildren not being presented for baptism”.

In a homily last Friday, marking the feast of Dublin patron St Kevin, Archbishop Farrell invited “women and men who feel that they are called to ministry to come forward to train for ministry as instituted lectors or acolytes or catechists”. These, he explained, were “lay ministers, women and men who are publicly recognised by the church and appointed by the diocese to minister alongside priests and deacons in leading liturgies, supporting adult faith formation and accompanying families preparing for the sacraments”.

He also said he would appoint “pastoral leaders – deacons, religious and lay people – where necessary when parishes cannot have a resident priest, to support the priest who will have pastoral responsibility for that parish. Their voluntary service will be supported by the pastoral workers in the diocese.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times