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

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  1. Mary Vallely says:

    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. I simply want to add my voice in agreement with everything Mary has just said. Definitely 12 men good and true! Thank God for them.

  3. Our own Irish Twelve Apostles, brave men ,prepared to stand up and be counted,rare indeed. Thank you.

  4. Thanks you for putting your heads above the parapet on THE most important issue facing the institutional church, as it undermines the credibility of everything else we said and do. 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.
    Also, very well said Mary @1. Couldn’t have put it better.

  5. Kevin Conroy says:

    A courageous expression of constructive anger by people closer to the cause. It seems reasonably justified and proportionate & is expressed as a step towards a solution. Better than venting. But this is about interrupting long established power. And power is rarely freely given away. It must be taken away.
    The power of men over women was reduced, not given away by them as a result of plausible argument or petition. Women were men’s property, had no vote & lived in cultures influenced by the three Abrahamic religions to be antagonistic to women (still in some places). The call for discussion is not enough in this scandalous situation. There is still deference here in the face of injustice. I think some strategic displays of anger are needed to interrupt the power of these bigoted bishops & cardinals. And to support the necessary institutional changes happening under Pope Francis’s leadership.

  6. Eddie Finnegan says:

    All praise to the 12! We await news of the remaining 989, for at least one of the twelve is not an ACP man except in spirit: he explained five years ago that he’s not by nature a joiner, though he wished the new movement a fair wind. The Thousand of the Reform need scarcely fear that an influx of women to the presbyterate is about to do them out of a job in the foreseeable future. That being so, what else is there to fear except Fear itself? Perhaps what’s needed at this point are one or two signatures from those who enjoy the Fullness of the Priesthood, who would now like to share it around.

  7. In my three and a half years ‘out of ministry’ I have travelled a good bit, and met up with many of the people working for Church Reform and Renewal. In particular I have been impressed by the women, by the pain that exclusion has caused some of them, and also by the faithfulness they show in ‘hanging in there’, and believing that this Church of ours can be a better place for all. In initiating this process of producing a statement I had these mostly in mind, to show them that we care, and to give them a word of support. Already, twenty four hours on, I have had many responses from around the world. Here a just a sample of what is coming in to me:
    Thank you for what you and the other eleven are doing. It looks perfect to me in terms of the approach and the timing (after what has happened or not happened in the synod).
    It is a huge gift to the church in Ireland, I am sure, and a huge gift to the church worldwide, for women, for men, and for the future of all those growing up. (Boston)
    ……and at the heart of my desire for a just and equal world where people are able to enjoy ‘life… to the fullest’ are the teachings of Jesus and the Blessed Saints. It’s therefore a terrible pain for me that the Church remains so ambivalent towards this beautiful image of equality that Jesus promised.
    Many of my peers, particularly women and LGBTI people, strongly believe that the Catholic Church is completely dismissive of them at best; hostile at worst. I can empathise with them.
    Your writing sits alongside the voices of a few brave priests here in New Zealand who are calling on Church leaders to reflect on the lack of equality and inclusion in an institution which is supposed to be there for all of God’s creation. (New Zealand)
    Many, many thanks for you and the 11 others for helping give voice to women around the world who have no voice. Your statement is beautifully written and much appreciated.
    This is a wonderful letter – thank you so very much for organizing this initiative and for sharing it with us.
    This means the world to us at Women’s Ordination Worldwide who so desperately need the support of our ordained brothers. Thank God for you and all who have dared to speak out with you now.
    A million thanks and blessings from all of us. (England)
    Thank you, and the other signatories, for your forthright support of ordination for women. We in Roman Catholic Womenpriests are especially grateful because we have put ourselves and our consciences on the line to follow what we believe is a call to serve God’s people as priests.
    Your statement is a huge support to us. (U.S.)
    Thank you for your recent statement on the topic of (in-)equality of women in the Roman Catholic Church. I am an acitve church member and I am suffering a lot from the state of mind of church officials on this question. I am grateful that you and your fellows have made the problem public again. It seemed to be forgotten in recent years. (Germany)
    Refreshing blast of support and eloquent response to the male detractors of feminine inclusion. Your quote from scripture is perfect, and says it all. I live in hope that a Jesuit will be the one to lead us out of this murky swamp and into the light of cosmic connection, universality, and one body once and for all.
    Blessings, and thanks to all of you for speaking up, speaking out, and leading by conscience. You make us proud. (California)
    This is wonderful. Thank you and the other courageous and honest ones who stand with you. (Australia)

  8. Indeed, this is the most critical issue facing the Church in the 21st century, and this declaration is a sign of hope. For your consideration, based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Theology of the Body:
    Nuptial Complementarity in the Priesthood and the Episcopate
    The sacramental priesthood of the New Law is not dogmatically patriarchal. The Church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” (and therefore hierarchical) but not essentially patriarchal.

  9. Paddy Coady says:

    Congratulations and thanks to the 12 priests calling for Equality of women especially in Ministry. Even after Mass last Sunday I said that the Ministry cannot survive without the inclusion of women.It seems so obvious but hopefully this is what is needed to get things moving. I will be very surprised and disappointed if the number 12 has not at least doubled in the next few weeeks.

  10. A huge thank you to these courageous men who have dared to make known their views in such a public way. I endorse all the comments on this page – especially that all priests who agree with this statement add their names to the call for open dialogue on the equality and inclusion of women in all areas of ministry and leadership in the Catholic Church. I hope that you will receive every support and encouragement to take this forward. The Spirit is definitely moving – unfortunately so many in authority appear to not only be out of touch with cultural realities and the signs of the times but also out of touch with the Holy Spirit.

  11. Thank you all for your courage in speaking out. It gives us hope. Always remember “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”.
    God Bless

  12. Pascal O'Dea says:

    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 !.

  13. Gerard Moloney says:

    A wonderful letter. I agree one hundred percent with what it says. Thank you for your courage.
    Gerard Moloney

  14. Alice Murphy says:

    I wouldn’t be in support of this at all. I know you won’t publish my comment but I just want to put this on record. Peter has spoken and that is that. And those who object to this definitive teaching are at risk of destroying their Communion with the Church. If it is not already gone. Repent. Go to Confession. Embrace the teachings of Christ.

  15. Colm Holmes says:

    Many thanks to the TWELVE APOSTLES FROM IRELAND!!
    I hope all Parish Councils will put this appeal on their agenda and publicly confirm their support for it.

  16. Eddie Finnegan says:

    As Alice Murphy@14 says, “Peter has spoken and that is that.” But did anybody think of asking Peter’s mother-in-law, or his unseen and unheard wife and daughters, for a second opinion?

  17. Martin Harran says:

    I am more and more convinced that arguing the question of female ordination is a waste of time; not because it isn’t right and proper – I believe it is – but because the priesthood as we know it today will be dead by natural causes anyway in about 20 years time.
    Yes, it’s a great pity that our leaders insist on waiting until that happens but our energy would really be better focused on trying to influence what replaces that priesthood and working to make sure that gender will not be a factor in it.

  18. I welcome open discussion.

  19. Michael Duffy says:

    Congratulations on your courageous statement. If God is rational, and no less of a theologian than Pope Benedict often insisted that to be true, and women are equal to men – who is going to deny that at this point in time – then there is no rational basis not to ordain women.

  20. The call for free and open discussion is heartwarming. The appeal to social justice is clear: “We believe that we can no longer remain silent because to do so colludes with the systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church.”
    I myself, while teaching in Roman Catholic seminaries in the USA for twenty-five years, was required to keep a guarded silence on this and kindred issues. But this reluctant obedience has not served our Sisters nor has it served those whom I helped prepare for lay and ordained ministry.
    By way of atoning for my years of silence, I have just published an ebook, THE SEVEN ERRORS OF OUR CATHOLIC BISHOPS, in order to equip former students and all those faithful Catholics (and their Protestant friends) who are interested in sorting out the wheat from the chaff within current Catholic teaching.
    What you will discover herein will supply you with clear, strong, and compelling case studies that can be used to open up informed and reliable explorations on topics that have largely been obscured by authoritative pronouncements, by shoddy biblical scholarship, and by ignorance of Catholic history.
    Free materials are available at http://ChurchonFire.net and my ebook is found at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0178GWFTW/
    Aaron Milavec

  21. Eamonn O Carragain says:

    Next Saturday’s reading, 7 November, is a selection of greetings (mostly to the various house churches in the city of Rome at Paul’s time) from Romans 16. Unaccountably, Romans 16:1-2 (the opening of the chapter, which sets the theme for the chapter) has been omitted from Saturday’s Mass lection. Would it not be a good idea for priests celebrating Mass next Saturday to supplement the prescribed liturgical reading by adding verses 1-2 and perhaps commenting on their strange omission from the lectionary? By the way, a quick Google search came up with an interesting article by Elizabeth A. McCabe, writing in the *Society of Biblical Literature*, on Romans 16:1-2 and the related early evidence for deacons and ministers. It is strange to honour St Phoebe and at the same time to omit, from the weekday liturgical cycle which for the last four weeks has been giving generous excerpts from Romans, the scriptural testimony to her ministry and to her evident cooperation and friendship with St Paul. Can anyone offer an explanation, I wonder, for her strange omission from the Mass reading for Saturday next? EAMONN O CARRAGAIN

  22. Soline Humbert says:

    Thank you Eamonn for pointing this out.
    Sr Ruth Fox OSB has a really eye-opening piece alerting us to the exclusion and marginalization of women in the lectionary, perpetuating a one-eyes view of reality…
    For instance she writes:
    “Two of the most obvious exclusions of women from Second Testament scriptures are found in different readings from the daily lectionary. In the continuous reading from Romans, verses one and two of chapter 16 are omitted from lectionary #490 (Saturday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time, Year I): “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deaconess [the Greek word is “deacon;” the revised NAB uses “minister”] of the church of Cenchrae. Please welcome her in the Lord, as saints should. If she needs help in anything, give it to her, for she herself has been of help to many, including myself.” Thus churchgoers will never hear in our liturgy of Phoebe, a woman who was a deacon. Another overt omission of a verse about women’s spiritual influence is made in 2 Timothy 1:1-12, which is assigned to Wednesday of the 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II. Lectionary #355 neatly excises verses 4 and 5, including: “I find myself thinking of your sincere faith–faith which first belonged to your grandmother Lois and to your mother Eunice.”
    There are also noteworthy omissions of women from the assigned gospel passages. It seems incredible that the Magnificat, the beautiful and revolutionary song of Mary in Luke 1:46 – 56, is never proclaimed on a Sunday; it is found on a weekday before Christmas (#199) and on two feast days of Mary, the Visitation (#572) and the Assumption (#622). But by not assigning it to a Sunday, the lectionary seems willing to risk that not many Catholics will hear this marvelous song of praise attributed to Mary.” Too revolutionary on the lips of a woman?

  23. brendan butler says:

    ‘We are Church Ireland ‘ fully supports the recent appeal by 13 catholic priests for a full and open discussion of the equality of women in the Roman Catholic Church including the opening up of all ministries including priesthood to women.
    ‘We believe that this exclusion of women from ministry and governance in the Catholic Church is an injustice which we cannot collude with any longer and we call on all clergy and laity to fully support this principled stand ‘

  24. Chris McDonnell says:

    In many ways the key for the ordination of married men has already been found, we are just waiting for a Bishops’ Conference to have the courage to use it. In the case of women’s ordination the road may be a little longer.
    Unless we have these courageous conversations and face up to the conclusions of honest discussion, we have little chance of being pilgrims in a pilgrim Church.
    Don’t let us fall into the trap of believing that the laity are alone in their frustration. So too are many of our priests, whose obedience to their bishop restricts their voice and whose voice is, in many cases, never heard by an Ordinary who is often unwilling to listen. We must not be daunted by diversity, nor should we be anxious over newness in our midst.
    The Ministry of Fear, to borrow the title of Seamus Heaney’s poem, has no place within the Christian community. When those who cannot speak for fear of consequence then those for whom consequence is of no matter must speak for them and, willingly, be identified.

  25. declan cooney says:

    Mr McDonnell, not all of the laity follow your opinion.
    Some of us prefer to follow the Church and our Holy Father (whoever it is) and I for one have no fear to state it out loud.

  26. Susan McCarthy, RDC says:

    Thank you for the courageous words spoken in this letter. My eyes fill with tears at the truths you have spoken of our Church and its leadership. How long will we (can we) go IGNORING the gifts and creativity of one half of our Church?

  27. Jeremiah White says:

    I am bewildered by the belief that an injustice is being perpetuated by the Church for not ordaining women. Have we forgotten that salvation is the crux of evangelization with Jesus’ call to go and baptize all the nations? No man or woman is denied access to eternal life just because the priesthood is male only! What say you? I think an injustice has been done to me, as a male, because I cannot bear a child. Why did God make it so to be this way? This is very unfair! Do I sound ridiculous? God is not unfair or unjust. Praised be God that everyone can have eternal life thanks be to Jesus, the Son of God.

  28. Married priests? I am married but can never be priested – because I already have received the sacrament of Holy Orders. The irony is I would make a better priest now than I ever did when in active ministry. Certainly a lot less selfish… Ministry of love would replace ministry of fear…

  29. Chris McDonnell says:

    #Declan Cooney
    Thanks for your comment Declan.
    I am certainly not expecting a ‘following of my opinion’.
    I am just expressing a view, being increasingly aired by both men and women, that given our experience of gender equality, there can be no justified reason for excluding women from ordination.
    Sr Joan Chittester has written an important article at NCR online
    on this whole issue.
    Well worth reading

  30. Jeremiah@27. The admission that you are bewildered speaks for itself as for the injustice done to you because you can’t bear a child,the joke is that if men could bear children there would be a dramatic drop in the birth rate worldwide and no more talk of NFP.?‍?‍?‍??

  31. Soline Humbert says:

    I have only just come across this inspiring little piece written by Paul Andrews SJ when he was in New Zealand 5 years ago:
    “Here is a story that gives some flavour of the robust church down under: one of the Dunedin priests, who is highly episcopabilis, received a polite letter from the Papal Nuncio saying that he had heard this man was in favour of women’s ordination, and would he like to comment on this? “What a joy,” he wrote back, “to get a letter from a nuncio in the middle of all the bills and appeals and complaints that fill my letter box! And what an interesting question! Of course I’m in favour of the ordination of women! Don’t you think that we boys need all the help we can get? I am so pleased you asked me, and I appreciate, of course, that my answer will debar me from any ecclesiastical preferment in the future! That too gives me great satisfaction. Thank you, nuncio, for carrying out these thankless tasks that go with your job.” The nuncio wrote back a gracious thanks for his letter and admitted to a certain sadness over the whole operation.”(http://www.jesuit.ie/news/postcard-from-the-edge-2/)
    yes, a good sign of a “robust” church….. I wonder whether our nuncio Charles Brown has had a similar experience here?

  32. Thanks, Soline, that is absolutely brilliant! I am sure Peter Shore is wondering why the nuncio should feel a “certain sadness”

  33. Soline Humbert says:

    A report on a recent conference on women in the church. http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/conference-looks-women-and-church-vatican-ii
    The conference took its theme,from the 1996 book by Irish Mercy Sister Carmel E. McEnroy, “Guests in Their Own House,” which told the story of the 23 women auditors of Vatican II. McEnroy, who had been on the faculty at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, was fired in 1995 after signing a letter asking Pope John Paul II to consider opening ordination to women. Sr Carmel McEnroy now lives in Galway.
    As Mary Vallely reminds us @1:”Women theologians have been cruelly treated too,of course.”Sr Carmel McEnroy is one of them.

  34. Soline Humbert says:

    “Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) extends our deepest gratitude to the twelve Irish priests who publicly signed their names to a statement calling for open discussion on the need for equality for women in all aspects of Church life, including ministry…..
    WOW hopes that the moral courage of these Irish priests inspires others to stand in solidarity with all those who believe in equality in our institutions and in our faith. When male priests and those in positions of authority in our Church speak out, they not only do what is just, but they join they grassroots movements of many Catholics around the world who are tirelessly calling for equality.”
    WOW complete statement on http://www.tonyflannery.com/womens-ordination-worldwide-acknowledge-statement/

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