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Friday 23 March 2018

Boycott fails to dent attendance at Mass

Grainne Cunningham and Ralph Riegel

Calls for women to boycott Mass yesterday to highlight a demand for better recognition of women in the Catholic Church had no appreciable impact on church attendances, said the Catholic Communications Office.

The campaign by pensioner Jennifer Sleeman, from Clonakilty, Co Cork, for a one-day boycott had provoked international debate about the role of women in the church and divided congregations here.

But while Ms Sleeman spent yesterday in quiet prayer and was unavailable for comment, the Catholic Communications Office said initial indications from parishes around the country suggested that numbers were not noticeably down at services yesterday.


"The sense would be that, if anything, attendance seems to be fuller than usual," the spokesman said.

Nor was there evidence that Mass-goers sported the green armband of protest, suggested by Ms Sleeman, for those who felt they must attend services.

But those conscientious objectors who did choose to stay away provoked a response from church hierarchy.

The Catholic Bishops said in a statement: "The celebration of the Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation is essential to the practice of the Catholic faith."

Commenting on the role of women in the church, the statement continued: "Lay women and men contribute actively to all aspects of church life and this involvement has increased significantly in recent years."

Controversial priest Fr Iggy O'Donovan told his congregation in Drogheda that he could not ignore "the elephant in the room". Speaking to those attending Mass at the Augustinian Church, Drogheda, Fr O'Donovan said he believed that "nothing in our tradition excludes women from the fullness of priestly ministry forever".

He said the fact that the Catholic Church did not ordain women 2,000 years ago was still "a millstone round our necks", and acknowledged that "full recognition of the equality of women in our church will not come about anytime soon. It is, however, an issue we ignore at our peril."

Parishioner Muireann McGinity (24), who addressed the congregation after Communion, said the call for a boycott was "regressive in terms of dialogue and adversely advocates a bitter debate as opposed to actively engaging in it."

Ms Sleeman, whose son Simon is a Benedictine monk at Glenstal Abbey in Co Limerick, first called for the boycott six weeks ago. Her appeal generated headlines from the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, France, Germany and Italy.

The influential US lobby group, Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW), staunchly backed Ms Sleeman's stance while women across Canada, the US, Central America, Britain, New Zealand and Australia supported her boycott.

Earlier last week, Mrs Sleeman said her boycott call was a success in achieving its original aim of promoting reform issues.

In her own parish in Clonakilty, just one female minister of the Eucharist wore a green band at 8.30am Mass yesterday.

The lone wearer of the band served Holy Communion to a healthy congregation of more than 150 Mass-goers, some of whom said they could not support their fellow parishioner's call for a boycott.

Irish Independent

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