Irish bishops divided on issue of married priests and women deacons
Irish bishops shelve married priests’ proposal
The country’s Catholic bishops have shelved a proposal to ask Pope Francis at a meeting in Rome next week to consider allowing priests who left ministry to get married to return to priestly work.
According to “The Irish Catholic” newspaper, the decision follows a failure by the hierarchy to reach a consensus on proposals by the Bishop of Kilmore, Dr Leo O’Reilly, which also included considering lifting the bans on ordaining married men and female deacons.
However, Bishop O’Reilly has told this week’s edition of the paper that the issues may come up when the bishops collectively meet the Pope tomorrow week.
He indicated that they may also feature during their planned ten-day series of mandatory ‘ad limina’ meetings with senior Vatican officials which begin early next week.
All three proposals emerged from an 18-month-long listening process in Kilmore – which includes almost all of Co Cavan and sections of neighbouring counties.
It led to a diocesan assembly and a new diocesan pastoral plan to tackle issues such as the declining number of priests.
The paper recalls that in June 2015, Dr O’Reilly said he was liaising with other Irish bishops about setting up a commission to discuss the possibilities of ordaining married men and appointing female deacons.
He also said that Pope Francis was encouraging individual bishops and national hierarchies to be creative in looking at ways of doing ministry in the future, and that Ireland must “consider all options”.
However, he tells today’s ‘The Irish Catholic’ that no decision was made when he raised the commission idea with his fellow bishops that same year.
He said there was an “inconclusive discussion” of it at the Irish Bishops’ Conference, the hierarchy’s quarterly meeting in Maynooth.
The Catholic Church’s rule of mandatory celibacy for priests was introduced more than a thousand years after the bible says Christ died and is matter of discipline rather than doctrine.
It would require changes to church law but would be likely to be resisted by conservative elements, including senior Cardinals, most notable, the American Archbishop Raymond Burke, who have been openly criticising Pope Francis’ reforming zeal especially during global bishops’ synods on the Family in Rome in 2015 and last year.
‘The Irish Catholic’ reports that it is rumoured that Pope Francis is willing to allow married former priests to return to ministry in Brazil on a phased and experimental basis.
Last August, the Pontiff established a commission of seven men and six women to study the issue of ordained female deacons, particularly their ministry in the early Church.
Its President is Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). All the Irish bishops travelling to Rome next week will meet officials from the CDF and other Vatican departments.
Currently, Catholic deacons must be male. They perform most of the duties of priests with the key exception of celebrating Mass.
Former president Mary McAleese has campaigned for over two decades for the ordination of women deacons in the Catholic Church, arguing it is “ungracious” of its all-male hierarchy to refuse the offers from women who wish to serve in that role.

Similar Posts


  1. Chris McDonnell says:

    After tentative talking, when might we find the courage to take the next step for the sake of the people? Or are we forever bound to follow a cautious path that ends in a brick wall? The Church is greater than the views expounded by Cardinal Raymond Burke and those like-minded individuals.
    With each year passing, each hesitant meeting of bishops who seem afraid of the reality we face, we can only feel despair that no action is being taken, both in Ireland and the UK.
    Meanwhile, we move from crisis to crisis, combine parishes and expect those priests we still have to increase their work load beyond realistic limits. Parish ministry becomes process and we wonder at diminishing congregations.
    Time to wake up and smell the coffee.

  2. John O'Brien says:

    It’s all so boringly predictable.

  3. Martin Murray says:

    Great to hear they are actually talking about it. Sad that we have to learn that through the general media.
    If the bishops of Ireland are even in the the slightest way in touch with their people they will know of the widespread openness and support for this. But do they want to hear the opinion of the Body of Christ? If they do, and they are not clear, why don’t they ask them through a nationwide parish by parish, diocese by diocese survey. The outcome would be decisively in favour of married priests and women deacons.
    Maybe they can’t hear because we the laity are afraid to make our voice hear. Now is the time! Don’t leave it others. Don’t leave it until later. Let your local bishop know beyond all reasonable doubt that you and the people in your parish support such a move.
    Its not unreasonable. Pope Francis awaits your support for reform.

  4. Phil Greene says:

    Having now read the full text rather than the headlines, unfortunately John @3 is spot on .

  5. The Irish Bishops are divided on the issue of married priests. It it a case that the church in Ireland incapable of responding to a real crisis. It is my belief that the membership of the church will welcome with open arms those priests who wish to marry and perhaps live life as God intended. Excluding the idea of marriage just shows that the Irish bishops do not or are unwilling to respond to Irish society as it is today. It feels that the rule around celibacy are greater than the celebration of the Eucharist……………………….Also why don’t each diocese publish the results of the survey that they carried out some years ago. I suspect that the results would show a population that is moving or have move away from church teaching.

  6. Phil Greene says:

    To Martin Murray @4. Thank you Martin, your response gave me food for thought and I mulled it over in depth this time, my thoughts are as follows:
    1. EXCERPT from The Irish Catholic
    It (the idea) came from originally was the diocesan pastoral plan was the diocesan PASTORAL plan,” he (the Bishop of Kilmore, Leo O’Reilly) said, highlighting how it had arisen following an 18-month listening process in his Kilmore diocese which had led in turn to a diocesan assembly and a new diocesan pastoral plan to tackle such challenges facing the Church as the declining number of priests.
    Many congratulations to the pastors, religious and people of the Kilmore Diocese for their vision and contribution in compiling such a plan. Can this Plan be shared with other/all Dioceses as it must make very interesting reading? Can we access it on a local website or can you make it available via this and other Catholic websites? Also, if it is to be discussed on a religious affairs programme please advise accordingly. In light of the spirit of this project might I tentatively suggest that a bound copy of a summary of the report or a framed poster might make for a lovely gift for our Pontiff.
    2. This listening process/new pastoral plan could possibly be adopted around the country (and further perhaps). Let each parish endeavour to get a copy and read it. If it is fit for purpose beyond its own locality, then let’s use it as a national model to find out what our own Faith communities see as important for our future. The listening process/ pastoral plan deadline for completion could possibly be shortened if the Kilmore Diocese has completed most of the groundwork and produced the framework for a working model. Let’s ask our Pastoral leaders and councils for copies to be made available to all parishioners!
    3. In light of only hearing about the bishops’ decision a few days before they visit the Vatican, it would possibly be advantageous to write directly to Pope Francis as soon as possible, either as in groups or individually, asking him to address this issue with the bishops in the next 10 days and to discuss their difficulties in relation to these motions put forward by the people of the Faith communities in parts of Ireland. Also, he could be asked to request a nationwide survey like the Kilmore project from the bishops to be completed within a certain timeframe e.g. before the end of 2017 or in time for his visit next year.
    And so together we have action, all of us doing our bit, and no-one is excluded from looking at how we can help the bishops have a “conclusive discussion” the next time and do so within a realistic timeframe in the not-too-distant future.
    And as we all take some action for the good of our Faith communities, either as above or in some other form, let us all take a wee moment and say a prayer for each other too . God Bless

  7. DR. HENRY says:

    Now that Donald Trump has already addressed Pope Francis about walls, and told him globally that his criticism of his (Donald’s) religion is disrespectful, it is clear that we have a deal cutter here. Give him free rein to visit with the cardinals individually in their offices, take their old job descriptions and within 45 minutes give them new job descriptions. We would have a relatively speedy reformation.It is possible that he could drop by his Irish golf links and meet with all the Catholic bishops to let them know that they face a staffing problem in the very near future. Your bishops have become god’s chosen frozen.

  8. Des Gilroy says:

    In response to the query from Phil Greene (7) above, the Kilmore Diocesan Plan is available on the diocese’s website, and is accessed at
    Dealing with the crisis in the priesthood, the Parish Assembly agreed with the following:
    “The Bishop of Kilmore will liaise with the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference to explore the establishment of a commission akin to the one in Brazil under the leadership of Bishop Erwin Krautler and Cardinal Claudio Hummes to study the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood as well as appointing women deacons. This is a direct response to Pope Francis’ words to Bishop Krautler that “the bishops, the regional bishops’ conferences, should make brave, courageous suggestions.”
    It is understood that when the matter was raised at the meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference, it received little support, hence the failure of the bishops to bring this as a proposal to the Vatican this week.
    The lay Irish church reform group, the Association of Catholics in Ireland, quite rightly issued a statement this weekend expressing deep disappointment at the position being taken by the bishops and this is well worth reading at

  9. Phil Greene says:

    Thank you Des for this information.
    Hopefully the bishops will read the ACI’s well-written statement and that the statement makes its way to Pope Francis too, before the bishops leave Rome..

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.