The view from Mount Merrion: mixed view on Josepha Madigan’s call for women priests

‘The cheek of her,’ says one massgoer but others are supportive of greater equality

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan was “absolutely right” in speaking out about what she believes are inequalities in the Church, said one churchgoer in Mount Merrion. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan was “absolutely right” in speaking out about what she believes are inequalities in the Church, said one churchgoer in Mount Merrion. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

Minister Josepha Madigan’s call for greater equality in the Catholic Church and her resulting spat with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin provoked a mixed reaction in her home patch in Mount Merrion, south Dublin.

Most locals The Irish Times spoke to were supportive of the Minister for Culture, but some expressed anger that she went “too far” and chose to push her own agenda.

Ms Madigan was “absolutely right” in speaking out about what she believes are inequalities in the Church, said Claire Kelly, who stopped by the church on Wednesday to light a prayer candle.

“Women are so disempowered in the Catholic Church. We are not meant to speak out. Now lots of us are voting with our feet and we are not coming to church services,” she said.

“The Church needs to wake up if they want to keep women. We need to be allowed have women priests, women bishops and women popes. I think she was absolutely right.”

The row erupted after the Minister assisted a church service in Mount Merrion last Saturday when a priest failed to show up. Afterwards she said the Church should ordain women and allow priests to marry.

In a strong criticism of her comments, Archbishop Martin said in a statement that the Minister had provoked “considerable distress” among churchgoers and should consider the upset she caused.

“She made my blood boil...The cheek of her. She shouldn’t have said any of that,” said Catherine Barry, a Kilmacud resident.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar backed Ms Madigan’s call for the ordination of women as priests in the Church and allowing priests to marry.

Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said he believed in equality in all things including in the workplace. This would include allowing priests to marry and permitting women to become priests.

However, he also said he strongly believed in the separation of church and State.

“This is not something the Government is going to go legislating for,” he said.

In Mount Merrion, one local said she had “no business” standing up on the altar, while another said she was “looking for a bit of publicity”.

Tony Flanagan, a mount Merrion local, felt that Minister Madigan meant no harm and that there was truth in what she said. “There is a shortage of priests. The younger people aren’t going to mass. In this day and age I think priests should be able to marry and women should be ordained.”

Brian Callanan, whose grandchildren live in the area, felt the church needs to think of new ways of having religious ceremonies.

“I do accept that that is a long term thing. I think the immediate solution is to expand the role of deacons and lay people in Church services and allow women to be deacons. Then you can move on to other things.”

Mr Callanan said he was “disappointed” to see a public row between a politician and a bishop because “that is not the way to solve problems”.

Minister Madigan intends to raise her concerns about inequality with Pope Francis when he visits Ireland in August.