There’s much that I respect about the Catholic Church, at least when compared to evangelical institutions. They don’t view all sins as being equal, for example, not do they see a conflict between Genesis and human evolution.
But on the issue of equality and women’s rights, the institution is centuries behind where it ought to be. On International Women’s Day, former Irish president Mary McAleese spoke in Rome at a Voices of Faith conference to demand a greater say for women in Church governance, and she held little back in her criticism:
“The Catholic Church is one of the last great bastions of misogyny,” said Mrs McAleese. “It’s an empire of misogyny.
A Church hierarchy that is “homophobic and anti-abortion is not the Church of the future”, she added.
“We don’t want to be what the Pope describes as ‘the strawberry on the cake’, she said.
“Our voices stir the winds of change, so we must speak out,” she added.
Pope Francis declined an invitation to this conference, as well as the opportunity to celebrate mass with the attendees. He has, however, claimed to support greater inclusion of women for jobs in the Vatican. That doesn’t mean, however, that he has any plans to budge on the issue of female ordination.
McAleese didn’t stop there. She’s has also spoken out since then about how her brother was “sadistically” abused by a Catholic priest when he was a child. He didn’t tell her about this until he was 49.
This is why it’s so important that someone with her stature — an Irish leader who had a Catholic upbringing — raise awareness of these problems. It’s not that we haven’t heard it before, but her voice carries more weight. The only question is whether Catholic leaders will take her seriously.
Right now, there’s no reason to think they will.