By Donal O’Regan
A LIMERICK priest has compared the Catholic Church to the Taliban on how they both treat women.
Fr Roy Donovan, parish priest of Caherconlish and Inch St. Laurence, has spoken out following a recent statement from Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy.
It was titled, “Change taking shape as greater lay involvement in the Church emerges”. The bishop also asked for expressions of interest from men over 35 years of age, married or single, interested in taking up roles as permanent deacons.
Fr Donovan said Bishop Leahy’s intention of introducing the male Diaconate into the diocese is a “return to the dark ages”.
“In recent weeks we have learned of the Taliban’s negative attitudes to women in Afghanistan, that of exclusion from education and the public domain.
“In the Catholic Church, women are excluded from the hierarchial (patriarchial) structures – no woman can be ordained a deacon, priest, bishop, cardinal or pope. Women are excluded from leadership, governance and decision making in the Church.
“Women have no vote in the upcoming Bishops’ Synod 2023 on Synodality. The Catholic Church at many levels, like the Taliban, treats women as second-class citizens,” said Fr Donovan, who is originally from Knockarron, Emly and served for many years in Dublin.
In his statement, Bishop Leahy said deacons had a ministry in the early Church which focused on service, both within the church community helping in the administration of the diocese and in reaching out to the marginalised in society.
Fr Donovan said up until the 12th century, the Catholic Church ordained women deacons, although by then their service was mostly restricted to women’s monasteries.
“Some Orthodox churches that split from the Catholic Church in the 11th century still do. In the New Testament Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul introduces Phoebe as a ‘deacon of the church at Cenchreae’.
“He also names Priscilla and Junia and several other women leaders,” said Fr Donovan, who is one of the leaders of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) but is speaking in a personal capacity.
The priest said this move towards male deacons “raises questions about how women in the Limerick Synod have allowed this to go forward or have they?”
“It also raises questions about having a meaningful Synod in the Irish Church. Men in every diocese in Ireland and throughout the world should join in solidarity with women and refuse the male Diaconate,” concluded Fr Donovan.
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