Women’s role in the Catholic Church


Sir, – How tragic it is for women of the Roman Catholic faith to realise just how deeply rooted is the belief that the role of women in the church cannot include a life of the priesthood. The argument put forward is that “Priesthood is a male function because a priest is the representative of Christ and Christ is male.” Christ’s message of the Christian life, invoking, faith, hope, charity, tolerance, and the love of your fellow man, has nothing to do with the physical form of Christ’s body, it is a cerebral message. The physical form of the disciples within the Bible is of its time and nothing to do with the Christian message.

Like many and to my shame, I have been complacent regarding the male preserve of the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. The current controversy has awakened in me a sadness, to realise just how marginalised I am, within my own church. – Yours, etc,


Sutton, Dublin 13.

Sir, – The only matters to be considered, in the controversy surrounding Josepha Madigan’s role in a Communion service, are her publicly professed pro-abortion views and her campaigning for a Yes vote in the abortion referendum – nothing else (“Josepha Madigan disappointed by ‘personal’ criticisms by Archbishop”, June 27th).

Her being a Government Minister and her opinions on women priests and shortages of priests are entirely irrelevant. Her abortionist stance, however, is incompatible with being a faithful Catholic and, for that reason alone, it is scandalous that she occupies any ministry in a Catholic parish.

She needs to be removed immediately from any such ministry, as do any others whose positions on such crucial matters as abortion, make a mockery of the faith and are a scandal to the faithful.

Bishops and priests need to show true leadership, courage and, above all, fidelity to Christ in these circumstances. – Yours, etc,



Corpus Christi, Belfast.

Sir, – I’m not a Roman Catholic. However, on June 28th I was intrigued by the 16 letters you published on the role of women in that denomination – not least because out of the 16 letter writers only one (Ray Cass) actually quoted Scripture.

God promised to “pour out his Spirit on both men and women” (Joel 2:29). The first person to whom Jesus revealed himself after his resurrection was a woman (John 20:14). Philip the Evangelist had “four daughters, all of whom prophesied” (Acts 21:8-9). Paul taught “in Christ there is no male and female” (Gal 3:28) and was a close friend of at least two female evangelists (Php 4:2-3).

Phoebe delivered Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome. When in Chapter 16 the Apostle greets 26 people by name in descending order of prominence, a woman named Priscilla tops the list. This strongly indicates that Priscilla led the Roman Church in the AD 50s and is therefore also the anonymous author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb 13:24).

Equality of status is not quite the same as identicality of function. And the Bible is not a book about the role of women any more than Great Expectations is a book about the flammability of wedding dresses. But one thing is clear from Scripture – subjugating women is not the mission of the Church Jesus Christ came to build. – Yours, etc,


Leopardstown, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Methinks the Archbishop doth protest too much! – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Archbishop Diarmuid Martin echoes St Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians exactly: “Women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

This husband, while no expert in biblical bingo, is aware that St Paul later taught the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Yours, etc,


Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Dhún na nGall.

Sir, – Why is it that when women stand up and speak their mind they are seen to be having an agenda whereas when men do likewise it is just taken as the normal way of dealing with issues.

Thank you to Josepha Madigan for doing what she and her fellow parishioner thought was the good and right thing to do. Let me suggest that we all (men and women) ask our parish priests and bishops what their reaction would be in a similar situation. I feel we would see misogyny rear its ugly head. Hopefully I can be proved wrong. – Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.

A chara, – Q: Could the Catholic Church ever ordain women? A: Now that Saudi Arabia is allowing them to drive I suppose anything is possible. – Yours, etc,


Stranorlar, Co Donegal.

A chara, – Madigan in Merrion drives Martin mad again. – Yours, etc,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Further to the “controversy” over Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan stepping in to lead a prayer service during the absence of a priest. In the parish of St Monica, Edenmore, the sacristan regularly steps in to lead prayers, with the laity reading the Gospel and day’s reading. This comes about because of the lack of priests.

Our sacristan has never had a headline to her name although she has practised this service for a number of years. Are we in the silly season for the media? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – In the predictable furore surrounding Archbishop Martin’s very measured response to Ms Madigan’s comments on female ordination, we have heard once again the usual claims that the Catholic Church is declining because it refuses to liberalise. Once again, then, let us point out the manifest truth. Churches which have made all the reforms demanded by liberal Catholics have not seen an increase in congregations or ordinations. In fact, they are declining at an even steeper rate. The Church of England has female clergy but fewer English people now attend Anglican services than attend Catholic Mass and recently, its weekly church attendance fell below one million. The Episcopalian Church in America ordains women and blesses same-sex relationships, but its membership continues to decline. The same point could be made of other liberal churches. This has been explained over and over, but never seems to be digested by would-be reformers of the Catholic Church.

It seems to me that they care more for their agenda than for the health of Catholicism, never mind its fidelity to its principles. The Catholic Church is certainly facing a rocky ride regardless of what it does, but ordaining women is not the answer – even if it was theologically permissible, which it’s not.



Ballymun, Dublin 11.

Sir, – The current spat between Archbishop Martin and Josepha Madigan has become more of a mountain than a molehill.

There is nothing new about men or women reading Mass prayers whenever a priest is not available. This happened for several years in our local Carmelite Church whenever the community of priests was on annual retreat.

The concept of male-only priests was not ordained by Christ. It is a man-made edict, stubbornly adhered to by the powers-that-be in the Vatican. With the serious lack of priestly vocations today, the writing is on the wall for the Catholic Church in its current form.

I applaud Josepha Madigan’s stance – she is a practising Catholic who believes, as many of us do, that women, created by God equal to man, should have the right to ordination, as they do in the Church of Ireland. – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.

Sir, – Is there an election in the air? Until this week I couldn’t say who the Minister for Culture was. Nice one Josepha! – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.