catholic women in the diocese of Killaloe "are rebelling" over a decision to introduce a new ministry which is open only to men.
The first women's forum in the mid-west diocese will be launched this evening to provide the disgruntled women with a platform where they can express their views and opposition to some of the new pastoral measures being introduced by Bishop Kieran O'Reilly.
Organiser Kathleen McDonald said that they feel they are being ignored by the institutional church. She said an open meeting for women "to discuss inclusivity in the church and to listen to the voices of women and really support each other" was on the cards.
The issue which triggered the row is the introduction of the all-male permanent diaconate.
Ms McDonald said it was "incumbent" on the diocese or the church to create a ministry that is inclusive of both men and women within parish communities rather than impose a ministry that excludes the majority of men and all women.
"This move to recruit deacons has been discussed at different levels in the diocese and there was huge opposition and we have been ignored," said Ms McDonald.
Bishop O'Reilly's invitation to married and single men to apply to train as deacons provoked a poster campaign in which literature expressing opposition to the new ministry appeared on parish noticeboards .
"It is another ordained exclusively male ministry. Together with many women, men and priests I feel we do not need another layer in the hierarchy. We have too many layers already," said Ms McDonald, who organises retreats and works for the West Clare parish pastoral council in Cross.
She warned that the permanent diaconate is not an answer to the shortage of priests. She explained that they can carry out baptisms, marriages and preside at funerals but that lay people can also do this anyway in the absence of priests.
Over half of Killaloe's 82 priests are aged 66 or older and between them they minister to 56 parishes across Co Clare as well as parts of Offaly, Laois, Tipperary and Limerick.
Bishop O'Reilly did not respond to a request for comment.
However, in his August pastoral letter announcing the diaconate he said the "promotion of lay involvement in the development and administration of parishes and the provision of training for the laity is central" to the Diocesan plan.