Diarmaid Ferriter: Pope’s visit will do little for image of church in Ireland

Women looking to be taken seriously in Church organisation will still be ‘shouting from outside’

Pope Francis makes his visit to Ireland in August, a trip which was formally confirmed this week. Photograph: Stefano Rellandino/Pool Photo via AP

Pope Francis makes his visit to Ireland in August, a trip which was formally confirmed this week. Photograph: Stefano Rellandino/Pool Photo via AP

Fifty years ago, there was quite a level of surprise with the publication of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae that reiterated the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial birth control. As a result there were undoubtedly many Catholic women in Ireland who felt they had to engage in a process of compartmentalisation to balance their faith and their personal needs and desires.

Like many others, Ireland’s best known agony aunt Angela McNamara, a mother of four, was “gobsmacked” by the encyclical and her postbag grew in size to include correspondence that came from “women with selfish husbands; women whose own needs for intimacy were great; couples who had very little other pleasure in life . . . couples who argued and fought about the meaning of the encyclical”.

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