When Minister and Archbishop clash


Sir, – It was with horror and concern that I heard about the mix-up at Saturday night Mass in Mount Merrion and the fact that Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan felt it necessary to step in due to the unfortunate absence of a priest (“Josepha Madigan disappointed by ‘personal’ criticisms by Archbishop”, Front page, June 27th).

In support of the community and priests in Mount Merrion I feel it important to point out how welcoming, inclusive and caring the community of Mount Merrion parish are and how well-attended all the services are each weekend with beautiful choirs helping celebrate at every Mass and an army of volunteers in the background helping in all aspects of the ministry.

The fact is that there are very few priests available – they are in their later years or suffering from ill health and covering multiple parishes. The local volunteer organisations in Mount Merrion are very strong and are an inspiration to how the church is working in the age of low recruits to the priesthood.

Rather than criticising the church and the priests for an unfortunate lapse the Minister might be better served in promoting community involvement in assisting the priests in their vast roles as opposed to criticising lack of female priests which is a more long term goal within the greater church. – Yours, etc,


Mount Merrion, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Today on my usual jaunts around Mount Merrion, I kept an eye out for any of my fellow parishioners who were suffering “considerably distress” and “hurt and upset”, after Josepha Madigan said a few prayers in the church last Saturday, when a priest failed to turn up to read Mass.

The only suffering I witnessed was sunburn and overheating of parishioners in training for our parish priest Fr Tony Coote’s upcoming “Walk While You Can” from Letterkenny to Ballydehob in support of Motor Neurone disease. – Yours, etc,


Mount Merrion, Co Dublin.

Sir, – After an unexpected no-show by the local priest, a lay woman steps in to lead the congregation in prayer. Two days later she explains on national radio that contrary to a media report she did not say Mass and on the same programme she voices her support for female ordination.

This causes the Archbishop of Dublin to accuse her of pushing a “particular agenda” and causing “considerable distress” to parishioners (Front page, June 27th). So, having already ruled out female ordination the church is now ruling out lay women from leading prayers in church and from offering their views in public. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 4.

Sir, – I would have thought that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin would be glad that the parishioners who turned up for Mass at the same church as Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan, got at least some prayers rather than no Mass.

The Archbishop should rejoice that someone stepped up when the priest didn’t show, not be mad over the fact that a woman dared to lead church activities.

He wonders why the church is seeing a decline in figures and yet he comes out saying her actions are “deeply disrespectful”: for some of us, it merely confirms our view that the Catholic Church doesn’t see women as equals and leaders and will never be capable of viewing us as such. – Yours, etc,


Clondalkin, Dublin 22.

Sir, – As a 48-year-old female member of the church, Josepha Madigan’s comments strongly resonated with me. I did not feel any distress or upset in relation to her comments; but rather to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s statement.

As a female it can be very difficult for me to see where is the place for women in the church.

I have viewed other Christian churches, especially the Church of Ireland, and see the strong role for women there – is this the church I should be a member of instead? When I consider my daughters, they should have role models in their church that they can identify with.

Josepha Madigan is just saying what most women (and men) in Ireland are thinking. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan was no doubt well-intentioned when she led prayers from the altar recently.

I agree with her that the church would be a better place if women could also be priests and if priests could marry. I disagree however with Ms Madigan’s position on the value of all human life.

In the recent referendum she supported the removal of the constitutional protection of the unborn. In view of this I am not sure that Ms Madigan is the most suitable person to be leading a congregation in prayers. – Yours, etc,


Milltown, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has always been known for his measured and calm response to various issues which have arisen in recent years. Hence, his testy riposte to Josepha Madigan comes as a surprise.

Perhaps she has cut too close to the truth – a male and celibate priesthood has failed and will in time, if not rectified, endanger the entire organisation. – Yours, etc,


Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Sir, – Fr Gerard Moloney says that “a new secular judgmentalism has replaced the old religious judgmentalism of yesteryear” in today’s “shiny new Ireland”, “Beware the new Ireland does not become as oppressive as the old”, (Opinion, June 26th).

However, on the evidence of the furious reaction from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to remarks by Josepha Madigan about “inequalities” in the church, some members of the hierarchy are yet to get the memo about them being part of a “definitively, defeated” organisation. He accused the Minister of pushing a “particular agenda” for voicing the relatively innocuous warning that a church that does not adapt to the modern world, particularly in its treatment of women, risks going into “severe decline”.

I agree that a “truly liberal, progressive, confident society is one that celebrates diversity and encourages diversity”. Clearly, some still very powerful representatives of the old order, such as Archbishop Martin, need to be reminded of this truth as much as any newly empowered liberals? – Yours, etc,


Arbour Hill, Dublin 7.

Sir, – Are Fine Gael going to brand themselves as Prophets Before People? –

Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

A chara, – There’s something almost Gilbertian about the unfolding drama based on an apparently simple episode in the south Dublin suburb of Mount Merrion, with prominent personages competing for lead roles, cacophonous choruses, intrusive comments from those lurking (with intent) in the wings, and a confused plot-line suggesting conflicting agendas.

I wouldn’t dare intrude on the contretemps between a (passionately determined) Cabinet Member and a (generally moderate) Archbishop, but a line from St Matthew’s Gospel comes to mind : “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. – Is mise,


Louisburgh, Co Mayo.

Sir, – The intervention of the Taoiseach in the polemic on the ordination of women in the Catholic church (“Taoiseach backs ordination of women as Catholic priests”, irishtimes.com June 28th) manifests a lamentable theological deficit. He confuses, as does Josepha Madigan, equality with identity.

Men and women in Catholic teaching have different though complementary functions. Priesthood is a male function because a priest is a representative of Christ, and Christ is male. The maleness of Christ is a significant vestige of His covenant or unique relationship to the church, his bride. In his mission on earth, Christ was counter-cultural in many respects, as he invoked and promoted justice and tolerance for the most marginalised people. Yet he still reserved the priesthood for men.

Thus Pope John Paul II was able to declare unequivocally in his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994) that “the church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”. This is a deposit of Catholic faith which cannot be rescinded. By calling for “equality in the workplace” (irishtimes.com, June 27th), the Taoiseach has egregiously superimposed the lexicon of commerce on spiritual and transcendental matters. – Yours, etc,


Castleknock, Dublin 15.

Sir, – Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s barbed response to Josepha Madigan’s initiative at Mount Merrion church and her comments on the need for women priests was an astonishing emotional outburst (Home News, June 26th).

In his statement the Archbishop made two assertions which need some comment. First, he claimed that there was no shortage of priests in his Archdiocese when priests tell us that they are racing from parish to parish in lifeless “clusters” trying to administer sacraments at the expense of pastoral contact with the Catholic faithful.

Second, his comment that the exclusion of women from the Catholic priesthood is a “core” teaching of the “universal church” is quite astonishing. This equating of the Catholic ban on women priests as a core belief of the Catholic Church comparable to other basic beliefs, such as the belief in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is quite bizarre and must be seen as a example of clerical misogyny rather than any “core” Catholic belief.

No wonder so many young people have no time for the Catholic Church when an Archbishop, like Diarmuid Martin, excoriates a woman who takes the initiative with other women to lead a priestless congregation in prayer and then justifies his stance with outlandish comments. – Yours, etc,


Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I wonder if the Taoiseach has any thoughts about the predominance of male imams? Does he think there are enough female rabbi? Has he reflected on certain tendencies in the decorative art of Hindu temples? Does he have any thoughts on the quality of incense in Taoist temples? Also, the temperature gauge in my car is disturbingly erratic. Any thoughts, Taoiseach, as to what the problem might be? – Yours, etc,


British Columbia, Canada.

Sir, – I just heard a local wag in Blackrock, Co Dublin today remark “Jesus, Mary, and Josepha” on hearing that the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht appears to have altered Catholic Church history. I presume he is anticipating a positive result in the forthcoming referendum on blasphemy.

Truly, gender equality has arrived in the Catholic Church in Ireland, albeit it in a “That’s Mad(igan), Ted” sort of way that would make the congregation of Craggy Island proud. – Yours, etc,


Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Josepha Madigan will become a priest as soon as Mary McAleese becomes Pope. – Yours, etc,


Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.

Sir, – With Josepha Madigan stepping in to lead the prayers in the absence of a priest, is there any possibility we could get a Government Minister to volunteer in an outpatient clinic to reduce waiting lists? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.