As the Rome ‘Synod on Synodality’ was under way in Rome in October 2023, Professor Mary McAleese again criticised the church’s “out-dated internal structure of governance, teachings and laws” in which, she argued, “inequality is embedded”.
This, she said “routinely restricted” the human rights of members especially the fundamental intellectual freedoms of expression, opinion, conscience and religion, including freedom to change religion.
In a keynote address for the Spirit Unbounded assembly on Oct. 13, the former president of Ireland said this failure to reform had impeded Christ’s mission as a consequence.
Speaking in Rome on the theme “Being Denied the Discipleship of Equals”, to a globally linked assembly called ‘Spirit Unbounded’, Professor McAleese complained that the church’s potential to be an example of complete equality in action was not being reached, even in the structure of the ongoing synod.
“We wish the Synod of Bishops well as it takes place here in Rome this month and again next year, but its structure, notwithstanding modest lay and female participation, is still modelled on a discipleship of unequals, with evident unease as to how to deal with what has been a powerful show of lay strength in the synodal journey so far, especially its determined push towards a discipleship of equals where what affects all is discussed and decided by all.”
Professor McAleese also attributed Pope Francis’ recent cautious acceptance of the principle of blessings for same-sex couples to recent pressure from lay opinion, and repeated her criticism of the slowness of the church to admit women to full equality in ministry.
Promises at Infant Baptism a form of ‘Conscription’
She returned also to former criticism of canonical rules that turn infant baptism into what she called a ‘form of conscription’.
“The very idea that a childhood ceremony which we could not comprehend nor take an active part in, irrevocably binds us for life to a faith system and obedience to teachings which comprehensively impact our lives but into which we have no input, is risible.”
“Canon Law offers us no exit strategy, brooks no dissenters, but rather provides serious penalties for those who leave or who oppose Church teachings. That this contradicts our God given human freedoms especially the freedom to make up our own minds is clear to an educated People of God and indeed many today exercise their human right to leave or stay while protesting and critiquing magisterial teaching.”
To read a full report of Professor McAleese’s address in The Tablet, click here.