McAleese: Church makes women invisible

Former Irish president Mary McAleese had straight words to say at a conference in Trinity College Dublin on Saturday afternoon.

Under the title “The Women The Vatican Couldn’t Silence,” she spoke of asylum seekers, the role of women in the church and cowardly bishops.

Beginning with the issue of asylum seekers, but without specifically referring to protests against accommodating asylum seekers in several Irish towns, McAleese spoke of asylum seekers’ need to be made welcome in Ireland.

They have had to leave their homes and “suddenly they have nowhere, and nothing. And now they rely on the kindness of strangers.”

“My God tells me I have to be the stranger who is kind . . . it bothers me greatly finding that (in) a country that I’m so proud of, that sometimes people are not experiencing the kindness that I know is the ethic of our country and our people.”

“We relied on it (kindness) ourselves so often when we went as emigrants to other countries, poor, our two hands the one length, looking for opportunity.”

The role of women in the church also bothers McAleese.

Women are “deliberately made invisible,” she said.

“Deliberately meant to stay invisible, and structurally the architecture of the church is designed to create and maintain the invisibility and powerlessness of women.”

As an example, McAleese drew upon Pope John Paul’s description of sex in marriage from his book Love and Responsibility.

In the book he says “It is the very nature of the act that the man plays the active role and takes the initiative while the woman is a comparatively passive partner whose function it is to accept and experience.

“For the purpose of the sexual act it is enough for her to be passive and unresisting, so much so that it can even take place without her volition while she is in a state where she has no awareness at all of what is happening – for instance when she is asleep or unconscious.”

“That is how we are treated in the church,” McAleese said.

She recalled how the late moral theologian Fr Seán Fagan “called Pope John Paul out on that and said the obvious. He asked a question.

Fagan said: ‘Can this really be Catholic Church teaching? It sounds like rape.’ What happened? Pope John Paul become a saint. Seán Fagan becomes silenced. That’s our church.”

McAleese also spoke of the ban on her taking part in a conference on women at the Vatican last year, noting she was never told why she was banned, even though she asked for an explanation.

The ban puzzled her as “it was known that the pope was coming to Ireland last year and Cardinal Farrell [who banned her from speaking at the conference] … probably did know that I had been the president of Ireland for 14 years.”

She said it’s important to strip away “the deference, the false deference, and insist on being listened to on equal terms.”

In her view, “the vast majority of bishops worldwide are cowardly. They are cowed, in their turn, [by] the deference they offer to their superior and the overreach of obedience to the magisterium [the Catholic Church’s teaching authority].”


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News category: World.

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