Priests criticise Church for its 'oppression' of women

A group of Irish priests have spoken out in opposition to the 'systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church'. Picture posed.

Sarah MacDonald

A group of Irish priests have spoken out in opposition to the "systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church".

The 12-strong group publicly called for a free and open discussion on the exclusion of women from all facets of ministry, including priesthood, which they said scandalised and alienated both women and men from the Church.

"We are aware that there are many women who are deeply hurt and saddened by this teaching. We also believe that the example given by the Church in discriminating against women encourages and reinforces abuse and violence against women in many cultures and societies," they said.

The priests highlighted that women formed the bulk of congregations at Sunday Mass and have been more active in the life of local churches than many men, "mirroring the fidelity of the women who followed Jesus to the end".


In their radical call for the full equality of women in Church life, the group said the strict prohibition on discussing women priests has failed to silence the majority of the Catholic faithful.

"Survey after survey indicates that a great many people are in favour of full equality for women in the Church," they stated.

The priests could potentially face censure by the Vatican for their call as the discussion of women priests has been off-limits since 1994, at the instigation of Pope John Paul II.

Fr Roy Donovan, a parish priest in the archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, is one of the 12 who has put his name to the call.

He told the Irish Independent that "there is a massive fear of women" in the Church which "seems to be almost irrational at some levels".

Most priests, bishops and cardinals - and the pope himself - are "kind of brainwashed into thousands of years of seeing everything through male eyes" he said.

The priest, who ministers in the parish of Caherconlish-Caherline, added: "I think the synod in Rome has shown up the huge injustice and prejudice towards women - 270 men and not one woman voted on matters concerning the family."


He said the synod had created greater awareness among people about how unjust this is.

Separately, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin yesterday hit out at those who adopt a judgemental and self-righteous stance on communion for "difficult cases and wounded families".

In a homily at the Pro Cathedral, the archbishop, who attended the Synod on the Family in Rome, stressed that rather than a language of condemnation, Pope Francis had stressed the language of mercy and strongly criticised those in the Church who had "closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church's teachings or good intentions".

He said parents are very rarely reminded of how their constant and patient love of their children and their self-giving for them are "building blocks of holiness".