A landmark report on the views of tens of thousands of Irish Catholics on reform and the future direction of the Catholic Church has called for leadership and decision-making roles for women, including ordination to the diaconate and priesthood.
According to the National Synthesis report, which is the fruit of consultations begun in 2021 throughout the Irish Church’s 26 dioceses, the role of women was mentioned in almost every submission.
It said the exclusion of women from the diaconate was regarded “as particularly hurtful”, and many young people cannot understand the church’s position on women.
“Because of the disconnect between the church’s view of women and the role of women in wider society today,” young people perceive the church as “patriarchal” and “misogynistic”, the report said.
Welcoming the publication of the synthesis, former president, Professor Mary Mc- Aleese, told the Irish Independent: “The overwhelming view and priority of the People of God” is that “the exclusion and inequality visited upon women and LGBTIQ+ members is not Christ’s way.”
She said the church’s stance had to change if it was to survive and thrive.
The report stresses that the lessons of the past need to be learned, and describes the concealment of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by church personnel as an “open wound”.
Participants in the synthesis said the church is in need of inner healing at every level, and called for penance and atonement for abuse at a national level.
The document, which was sent to the Vatican yesterday, acknowledges the impact in recent decades of a major decline in the practise of the faith, and in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Fifteen themes emerged from the consultations.
Apart from the role of women and the legacy of abuse, other themes include co-responsibility for lay people, greater accountability, transparency and good governance.
Many people said they felt decision-making and authority are exercised solely by priests and bishops.
On the issue of clergy, participants expressed appreciation for priests, their dedication, hard work, and pastoral care.
Many support a relaxation of clerical celibacy.
They also recognise that priests are over-worked and often feel burdened by the weight of governance and administration.
Concern was also expressed for an ageing clergy in Ireland.
Adult faith development, resources for lay ministries and collaborative decision- making were flagged by participants as “poor or non-existent”.
Elsewhere in the report, there was “a clear, overwhelming call for the full inclusion of LGBTQI+ people in the church, expressed by all ages and particularly by the young and by members of the LGBTQI+ community”.
The church’s rules and regulations for the divorced and remarried were seen as “draconian”.
Dr Nicola Brady, chair of the steering committee of the Irish Church’s Synodal Pathway, described some of the report’s findings as “stark” and said: “Many of the experiences shared are painful.”
According to Prof McAleese, the opportunity exists now “to radically reconfigure” the Synod of Bishops, extending its membership to reflect the voices of the laity, of women, LGBTQ+ Catholics and the many other marginalised groups.