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Diarmuid Martin says Mary McAleese's criticism of the Church was 'brutally stark'

The former president has called on Pope Francis to address gender inequality in the Catholic Church.

Diarmuid Martin, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Diarmuid Martin, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Image: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

THE CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP of Dublin has said former Irish President Mary McAleese’s criticism of the Catholic Church was “brutally stark”.

Speaking in Dublin last night, Diarmuid Martin said: “Probably the most significant negative factor that influences attitudes to the Church in today’s Ireland is the place of women in the Church.”

In recent days McAleese described the Catholic Church an “empire of misogyny”. She said the bar on women becoming priests should be lifted and called on Pope Francis to address gender inequality in the Church.

“Failure to include women as equals has deprived the Church of fresh and innovative discernment; it has consigned it to recycled thinking among a hermetically sealed cosy male clerical elite flattered and rarely challenged by those tapped for jobs in secret and closed processes.

“It has kept Christ out and bigotry in,” she said while giving a speech in Rome yesterday.

Martin made his comments while launching a new edition of Donal Harrington’s book Tomorrow’s Parish.

In his speech, he discussed “the factors that alienate people from the Church structures of today”. Martin said he wasn’t speaking about women’s roles in the Church just because of McAleese’s comments.

During her speech yesterday, McAleese referred to the fact that Martin previously felt compelled to remark that “the low standing of women in the Catholic Church is the most significant reason for the feeling of alienation towards it in Ireland today”.

Responding to this, Martin said: “Indeed, I was happy to note that President McAleese quoted that exact phrase of mine in her speech today.

“Her challenge to the internal culture of the Church today was brutally stark. Some may find it unpleasant or unwelcome. I must accept the challenge with the humility of one who recognises her alienation.”

Young people

Martin said another challenge the Church faces is “the situation of young people”.

A survey of young people’s attitudes to parish was recently carried out in the Dublin diocese in preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops called by Pope Francis.

Martin said the report about the survey’s findings was “one of the most disappointing documents that I read since becoming Archbishop”.

“Young people felt unwelcome in their parishes,” Martin said, quoting this statement from the report:

A number of young people noted that it was people in parishes (priests and parishioners) who were the greatest obstacles for young people getting involved.

He continued: “Where does the Church find itself in the midst of rapid cultural change in Ireland? Faith involves a different way of living within any culture. What is involved is not a negative reaction or simple rejection of a changing world.

In the past the Church and the Irish Church in particular was a highly moralising Church. Jesus did not write an arid rulebook as an inspiration for his followers. Jesus did not think that belief in him could be attained through imposition. Faith in Jesus is no ideology.

Martin said ministry in the Church in years to come “will have much less to do with management and structures” and instead be “about men and women who have the ability to speak the language of faith authentically in a world where that language may be alien and to speak in a way that attracts”.

He added that the fellowship of the early Church was “marked by a spirit of sharing of all goods by all in order to ensure that no one was left in need”, adding: “That is a real challenge to a wealthy Church living in a wealthy world surrounded by so many on the margins.”

Read: ‘Male celibates advise the Pope on what women really want, that is ludicrous’

Read: Mary McAleese says it’s ‘pure codology’ that women can’t become priests

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Órla Ryan

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