Former Irish President Mary McAleese has called the Catholic Church “one of the last great bastions of misogyny” ahead of a conference in Rome to discuss the role of women in the church.
Speaking to reporters in the Italian capital, Ireland’s eighth president McAleese also said that the ban on women becoming priests should be lifted, calling the theology on which the rules are based “pure codology” that would soon “fall asunder under its own dead weight.”
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McAleese was speaking ahead of the Why Women Matter conference, an event organized by Catholic equality group Voices of Faith for International Women’s Day. The conference had been due to take place at the Vatican but was moved after a conservative US cardinal objected to McAleese and two other known gay rights advocates from taking part in the event.
“There are so few leadership roles currently available to women. Women do not have strong role models in the Church they can look up to,” McAleese told reporters, according to Irish state broadcaster RTE. “It’s an empire of misogyny.”
McAleese, who has been a campaigner for same-sex rights for 40 years, said she wanted the Church hierarchy to change its stance on homosexuality and abortion, saying “homophobic and anti-abortion is not the Church of the future.”
Managing director of the initiative, Chantal Goetz, believes it is urgent that the Church include women. “The full potential of women in the Church is still not realized by our current leadership, and that’s a shame,” she said on the group’s website.
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The role of women in the Church has been a topic of much discussion in recent times. Earlier this month, Women Church World, an official Vatican publication, exposed the exploitation of nuns for cheap or free labor by the Church’s hierarchy. The article outlined the case of several nuns who were made to work in the homes of bishops and cardinals, cleaning and cooking, and were not invited to share meals at the same table.
Another nun using the pseudonym Sister Paule said that in many cases the sisters do not have contracts with the parishes they work with so they earn little or nothing. “It is an injustice that also occurs in Italy, not only in distant lands,” she said.
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