Misogyny and organised religion


Sir, – As a septuagenarian hearing-aid wearer, but unlike your correspondents (March 12th), I heard nothing offensive in Mary McAleese comment.

What I heard was a heartfelt, simply understood, metaphorical reference to the unwillingness or inability of Vatican authorities to listen to the concerns and ideas of the non-male half of the human race.

However, for over 50 years I found much that was offensive in various encyclicals and diktats emanating from various prelates and pontiffs, insisting, for example that “every sexual act must be open to the procreation of life” while behind the closed doors of monasteries, parochial houses and boarding schools unspeakable evil were perpetrated on innocent children, while culprits were protected, files disappeared, and meaningless reassurances about “steep learning curves”.

We would do well to be less selective about what we find offensive. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – I cannot understand why your letter-writers feel the need to justify their view that the Catholic Church discriminates against women: the discrimination is obvious. It is more obvious still that the lads in possession are not for turning. Perhaps it is time to build a bridge and get over it? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – Both Fr Tony Flannery (Rite & Reason, March 13th) and some of your letter-writers on the role of women in Catholicism (March 13th) replace the teachings of the church with what Cardinal Newman called “private judgment”–that is, personal opinions.

Fr Flannery has indeed gone so far elsewhere as to cast doubt on credal teachings (eg the virginal conception of Our Lord) which are not exclusive to Catholicism but which are shared with other Christians.

Fr Joe McVeigh derides what he calls “old arguments” against the ordination of women to the priesthood on the ground that times are changing. Perhaps it has not occurred to him that a change in secular attitudes – his attitudes, in effect – would prevail against his views on this matter. That is the problem with relativism: it undermines itself.

Orla Carroll claims that women are excluded from full participation in the church. There’s a word for the view that in order to participate fully in the church one must be an ordained priest – that word is “clericalism”.

I respect deeply all priests who are faithful to their calling but no man or woman is inferior to any priest simply by virtue of lay status. I might add that as a lay Catholic I am prepared to challenge any priest or bishop who seeks to undermine the Church’s teaching or ministry. Newman contrasted revealed truth to private judgment; and revealed truth will always suffice for all faithful Catholics. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The world has never thanked those who challenge us, yet we desperately need clarion calls for decent and just relationships in each generation. Mary McAleese’s challenge rings out across all faiths. Misogyny, bigotry and homophobia are not the sole preserves of one faith: they are endemic and need naming and resisting in all their forms and hiding places. Her passionate proclamation for the integrity of Christ’s gospel of love gives heart to many Christian men and women of all faiths. Well done! – Yours, etc,


Dean of Waterford

Christ Church Cathedral,

Cathedral Square,