12 Irish Priests call for discussion of Women in Ministry

Nov 1, 2015 | 5 comments

The following statement has been issue by the twelve priests whose names appear at the end:


Priests call for open discussion on the need for equality of Women in all aspects of Church life, including Ministry.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3, 28)

In the Catholic Church women, despite being equal to men by virtue of their Baptism, are excluded from all positions of decision making, and from ordained ministry. In 1994 Pope John Paul II declared that the exclusion of women from priesthood could not even be discussed in the Church. Pope Benedict reaffirmed, and even strengthened this teaching by insisting that it was definitive and that all Catholics were required to give assent to this view. Pope Francis has said that Pope John Paul II had reflected at length on this matter, had declared that women could never be priests and that, therefore, no further discussion on the ordination of women to ministry is possible. In reality, Pope John Paul II did not encourage or facilitate debate on the ordination of women to priesthood or diaconate before he made his decision. Furthermore, there was virtually no discussion on the complex cultural factors which excluded women from leadership roles in many societies until recently.

We, the undersigned, believe that this situation is very damaging, that it alienates both women and men from the church because they are scandalised by the unwillingness of Church leaders to open the debate on the role of women in our church. This alienation will continue and accelerate.

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. It is also necessary to remember that women form the bulk of the congregation at Sunday Mass and have been more active in the life of the local churches than many men, mirroring the fidelity of the women who followed Jesus to the end, to his death on Calvary. The command of Jesus “Go, teach all nations” was addressed to all his followers, and by failing to accept the full equality of women, the church is not fulfilling this commission.
The strict prohibition on discussing the question 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. But it has managed to silence priests and bishops, because the sanctions being imposed on those who dare to raise the question are swift and severe.

We believe that we can no longer remain silent because to do so colludes with the systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church. So, in the spirit of Pope Francis constant encouragement of dialogue, we are calling for free and open discussion concerning the full equality of women in all facets of Church life, including all forms of ministry. If this were to happen, the credibility of the Catholic Church would gain strength, especially when it addresses women’s issues.

Signed: Frs:

Eamonn McCarthy
Kevin Hegarty
Roy Donovan
Padraig Standun
Adrian Egan
Benny Bohan
Sean McDonagh
Tony Conry
John D. Kirwin
Donagh O’Meara
Ned Quinn
Tony Flannery
For information or comment:
Kevin Hegarty 087 2163450
Roy Donovon 087 2225150
Tony Flannery 087 6814699







  1. Mary Vallely

    I just want to thank those twelve good men and true for their courage in signing this. We do seem to be the last great institution to be facing up to the gross injustice of excluding people from ministries and governance simply because of gender. I think also that it is a HUGE crime to punish any priest for speaking the truth as he sees it and I am referring to all those ordained who have been silenced simply for having the courage to highlight these injustices. (Women theologians have been cruelly treated too, of course.) That is simply an unchristian way to treat people and seems mean and, dare I say it, almost vindictive. Is it Christ like?? It all seems to stem from fear which can destroy compassion and mercy. I understand that I can speak my mind because, as an ordinary woman, I have absolutely nothing to lose but I plead with all those ordained who do agree with the twelve signatories to add their names too. All that is being asked for is an encouragement to dialogue, for goodness sake!!

  2. Martin Murray

    Thanks you for putting your heads above the parapet on THE most important issue facing the institutional church. We have been and are such a terrible example to the world in our attitude to women as demonstrated in the structures of our church and it undermines the credibility of everything else we said and do.

  3. Colm Holmes

    I hope that all Parish Pastoral Councils will include this appeal on their agendas and endorse it publicly.

    • Martin Murray

      An excellent suggestion Colm. However it makes me wonder, who sets the agenda for most Parish Pastoral Councils? My guess from experience is that it in most places the parish priest at very least ratifies the agenda before the meeting. And sadly as this article points out, most priests are too afraid to go anywhere near this topic. Therefore the likelihood of it making it onto the agenda of most Pastoral Councils has to be unlikely. Pastoral Councils already suffer from the weakness of being merely consultative (facilitating a clerical decision making process). Not being able to set the agenda that could include such matters would further detract from their credibility. For me, as long as there are parishes, pastoral councils are here to stay, but they need a mature, confident laity and ongoing development if they are to function effectively and remain relevant to the people they represent.

  4. Pascal O'Dea

    Well done to the twelve,lets hope and pray the Spirit is listening,the church’s attitude to women and priesthood is incomprehensible and strains the courage and hope of many who believe in the Lord’s message but who find the institutional Church’s interpretation of the message as incredulous !.


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