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Conscience Magazine

Citing Justice, Some Irish Priests Speak Up for Women’s Ordination

November 16, 2017

The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has asked Irish bishops not to appoint permanent deacons until the Vatican’s commission on women deacons concludes its report and Pope Francis makes a decision about whether the church will allow women to join the ranks of the diaconate. Father Roy Donovan, a member of the association’s leadership, described the appointment of permanent male deacons as “extending [the] patriarchy.” His statement was reflected in the association’s request, which described such appointments as “insensitive, disrespectful of women and counterproductive.”
In April the Diocese of Limerick experienced a day without a single mass in any church, the first for any Irish diocese since Catholic Emancipation in 1829. “We need to prepare for a time when, even though priests are not available, each local community will be prepared to arrange for moments of public prayer,” said Bishop Brendan Leahy in reference to the shortage of priests and the move towards lay-led liturgies. Last year Leahy suggested that priest shortages might mean some churches would have Mass “every second Sunday or one Sunday a month.” Though Ireland faces a vocations crisis and polls have suggested 80 percent of Irish Catholics support the ordination of women, the hierarchy in Ireland has remained quiet on the issue. Donovan hopes to change that silence, asking, “Why are men not willing to share the priesthood? Why do men believe women are not worthy of this?” His statements were backed by Women’s Ordination Worldwide, which has called for equality in Catholic vocations for more than 20 years.