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Josepha Madigan criticises Catholic Church's lack of women in clergy

Faithful must 'speak up for the values we expect our church to uphold’

Josepha Madigan said it “should not come a source of surprise to see a woman on the altar including in the priesthood itself”. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The Catholic Church has a blind spot when it comes to inclusion of the marginalised or stigmatised, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan has said.

“For many, the revelations of sexual and physical abuse scandals, and the denigration of marginalised people within the Church has shaken their faith and sense of belonging to its core,” she said, adding that Catholics have a responsibility to speak up for the values that they expect the church to uphold.

Ms Madigan was speaking in Dublin on ‘Why the Catholic Church should open all ministries to women’ at a meeting of the liberal Catholic We Are Church Ireland group.

The meeting on Monday was to have been held at the Mercy International Centre on Dublin’s Baggot Street but the venue was changed due to intimidation of nuns at the centre by anti-abortion activists.

Ms Madigan had led Fine Gael’s campaign to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution in last May’s referendum.

Addressing the meeting, she asked why, where women were concerned, the Catholic Church was not more like Protestant churches in Ireland, which had “over 400 women” as ordained members of the clergy.

“Nobody finds this unusual because in those church communities it is considered quite the norm. Why can’t the Catholic Church be the same?” she asked.

“More often than not, it is women who are holding parishes together, doing the lion’s share of the work. According to the Vatican’s Pontifical Yearbook, 2017, women comprise a majority - 56 per cent - of all consecrated people within the church,” she said.


“Yet today, while many areas of life are opening up to women, the role of women in the Church has been relegated by an exclusively male clergy. This form of clericalism is hurting all of us.”

More generally, she felt “any church worth its salt should be big enough to provide a shared pew for the gay couple, the Opus Dei man, the divorced and the newly-married couple, the single parent and the large traditional family. We are all the many faces of Catholicism as it is lived, rather than imagined.”

Referring to reports that she had "said Mass" at her parish church in Dublin’s Mount Merrion last June, she insisted that was “not the case at all.”

She said the sacristan had said there was “no priest available and that we would have to step in”.

Although she opened the prayers “it was the three of us women (Ministers of the Word) together who shared the elements of the Mass that we could still perform as lay people”.

They only did what many other women and men are doing around Ireland, she said. “Our involvement was a reminder of the role of women in Church ministry in general,” she said.

She had received letters, cards and emails of support from all around the country. “In my view, as a Catholic, it should not come a source of surprise to see a woman on the altar including in the priesthood itself,” she said.