Tuesday 19 March 2019

‘Some will call for my excommunication’ – protests as Minister slams Catholic Church’s attitude to women

Josepha Madigan
Josepha Madigan

Sarah Mac Donald

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan was met with protesters as she issued a warning over the “brazen discrimination” against women in the Catholic Church.

She was met with pro-life campaigners bearing placards as she addressed the We Are Church Forum on Monday evening.

The event had been scheduled to take place at the Mercy Sisters’ International Centre in Dublin but had to be moved to a hotel after pro-life supporters threatened to stage protests outside the nuns’ venue over the Minister’s support for abortion.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the hotel where the talk was taking place carrying placards and a cross.

Sisters Noeleen and Fiona Larmon from Swords, Co Dublin, told the Irish Independent that they were pro-life Catholics.

“I am deeply offended that Josepha Madigan thinks it is okay to be pro-choice,” Noeleen Larmon said and questioned, “why hasn’t the Catholic Church excommunicated her?”

Fiona Larmon called on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin to “publicly excommunicate” the Minister for her pro-abortion and pro women priests views.

Responding to the call for her excommunication, Minister Madigan told Independent.ie: “There are always going to be some elements calling for my excommunication, that is not a surprise to me and it doesn’t hurt me anymore.”

“I am very strong in my view that women should be priests and should be entitled to apply to be priests in the same way as I think married men should be allowed to be priests if they wish.”

She described herself as an “ordinary member of the Catholic Church” and added: “Therefore I am at liberty to speak about the inadequacies and the discrimination that I see in the church.”

In an address titled, ‘A Community of Faith: Why the Catholic Church should open all ministries to women’, the Fine Gael politician questioned, “What is the church afraid of?”

“Why are women forbidden from even being considered as members of the clergy not to mention become an integral part of a new dynamic, representative, equal Church?” challenged the politician, who acts as a Minister of the Word in her local Dublin parish.

She referred to the row last June when she, along with two other women from Mount Merrion parish, presided over a liturgy of the Word when there was no priest to say Mass.

Though it had been reported that she “said” Mass, she stressed: “We only did what many other women and indeed men are doing around Ireland. Our involvement was a reminder of the role of women in Church ministry in general.”

The Minister also highlighted how parents are forced to admit to their daughters, “you can be an altar girl but don’t get too ahead of yourself, you will never be a priest. Even if you feel that God has called you, you are forbidden. That vocation is only for a man.

"You are not welcome here. You are not welcome here because you are female.”

Underlining that it is not women that need church leadership positions, rather she said it is Church leadership that needs women.

“A Church without women in its leadership, is a weaker Church. A paradigm shift in thinking in Church leadership is badly needed. If the Church wants to be strong, it needs to evolve.”

She quoted from Catholic Church statistics which show that in 2008, nearly 49,631 of the world’s 218,865 parishes did not have a resident priest. According to the Vatican’s Pontifical Yearbook for 2017, women comprise a majority (56pc) of all consecrated people within the Church.

“So, let’s be clear, women are in the Church. Women work for the Church. They simply face a glass ceiling that bars them from being able to apply for, or be appointed to, important leadership positions. And glass ceilings are being broken in many sectors, politics, science, so why not in the Church?”

She told the Forum that a church that discriminates against hearing 50pc of its wisdom is not as smart as it could be - and that this was a disservice to Catholic men and women around the world. “It is not a Church that is truly representative of the world we live in.”

She contrasted the situation of priestless Catholic parishes in Ireland to the Protestant Churches which, although a minority, has over 400 women in ministry at various levels, including as ordained members of the clergy, among them Bishop Patricia Storey of the Diocese of Meath and Kildare.

Describing herself as a daughter, wife, mother and a woman, the Fine Gael politician added, “If we want a Church that is fit for our daughters, hearts and minds need to change. Women are waiting. Women are watching.”

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