Group urges worldwide support for Mass boycott

 

CATHOLICS AROUND the world have been called on by a US-based group to support a boycott of Sunday Mass tomorrow in solidarity with Jennifer Sleeman and other Irish people who intend doing so.

The National Survivor Advocates Coalition in the US said it was taking the stance “because the boycott is rooted in a response to the sexual abuse scandal and justice for women”.

Coalition chairwoman Kristine Ward said yesterday this Sunday presented “an opportunity for Catholics in a quiet, private absence from their pew in their Catholic parish to open a slit for the piercing of the darkness. No rabble rousing is needed only silence . . . Out of the void, God created.”

Last month Ms Sleeman (81), from Clonakilty, Co Cork, said she wanted to let the Vatican and the Irish church know that “women are tired of being treated as second-class citizens”. She called on the Catholic women of Ireland to “join your sisters on Sunday, September 26th. On that one day, boycott Mass. Stay at home and pray for change.”

The sexual abuse scandals in the church horrified her, she said. “I find I belong to an organisation that seems caught in a time warp, run by old, celibate men divorced from the realities of life, with a lonely priesthood struggling with the burden of celibacy; where rules and regulations have more weight than the original message of community and love.”

Catholics should “let the hierarchy know by your absence that the days of an exclusively male-dominated church are over.”

Yesterday, Ms Sleeman told The Irish Times she intended staying at home tomorrow to “be quiet and maybe pray”. She was “absolutely delighted” with the response to her call for the boycott, first made six weeks ago.

She suggested those who felt they should go to Mass tomorrow might wear a green armband to show their support for the ordination of women. She also supported the proposal that postcards be sent to the Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady in support of the ordination of women.

She said she had no plans beyond tomorrow, as then “the ball will be in the church’s court”.

A group of US Catholic women will gather tomorrow morning for a special prayer service at Portland, Oregon, in solidarity with Ms Sleeman’s call.

Members of the One Spirit - One Call movement, they are doing so “to give public witness to the unjust and unequal treatment of women in the church”.

Meanwhile, Augustinian priest Fr Iggy O’Donovan has said he believes we can no longer use the tyranny of ancient cultural conventions to determine the role of women in the Catholic Church today. In a newsletter distributed at the Augustinian’s church in Drogheda, Co Louth, he said: “A church which does not give full and equal recognition to all its members – male and female – is breathing with only one lung.”

Doctrine, he said, was not written in bronze, but was a living, evolving organism. “Therefore I believe we need to redesign the minstry in the church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”