Mary McAleese and the Vatican


Sir, – I was appalled to read in Patsy McGarry’s report (News, February 2nd) that Dr Mary McAleese has been barred from taking part in a conference to mark International Women’s Day. The conference was originally intended to take place in the Vatican, but Dr McAleese was officially excluded by the Vatican. The conference, “Why Women Matter”, was then transferred by its organisers to premises outside the Vatican and Dr McAleese was invited to be its keynote speaker.

As an Irishman I protest about the manner in which Dr McAleese, a former president of my country, was treated by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, a fellow Irish Catholic, and prefect of the Curial Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, who is heavily involved in this year’s World Meeting of Families in August, when Pope Francis is expected to be present.

As a Catholic priest and theologian I also protest at the implications of Cardinal Farrell’s partisan action. In addition to being a cardinal, he is a Roman curial official with status and power. He has acted with high-handed presumption, using the authority of his office to foist on his fellow Catholics his own ultra-conservative disdain for movements for reform in the Catholic Church. His views are not argued; they are imposed – which is a patent abuse of office.

How much longer do Catholics have to wait before there is reform of attitudes to such matters as homosexuality and opposition to women’s ordination (ordination being a symbol of power in a heavily clerical church)? Denial of the freedom even to discuss these topics would be laughable were it not also a denial of justice and of the right to human dignity. By all means let traditionalists hold their views in freedom; but let them also remember that their views are liable to legitimate and expert contradiction and argument, of the kind that often occur at conferences. Both sides should avoid the careless arrogance of describing their convictions as “the teaching of the Church”. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.