Speaking in Rome on International Women’s Day, former president of Ireland Mary McAleese railed against the Catholic Church for its views on gay marriage and abortion, calling on the Church to eradicate the “toxic virus of misogyny.”
A Church that is “homophobic and anti-abortion is not the Church of the future,” McAleese told participants in the conference, which was organized by the Catholic protest group Voices of Faith and hosted at the world headquarters of the Jesuit order in Rome.
Scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day, a socialist-inspired holiday originally instigated by the Second International Socialist Women’s Conference in 1910, the Voices of Faith conference reportedly sought to demand a greater say for women in Church governance.
“The Catholic Church is one of the last great bastions of misogyny,” Ms. McAleese said. “It’s an empire of misogyny.”
The Church, she said, “has kept Christ out and kept bigotry in.”
In her alliterative attack, McAleese called the Church a male bastion of “patronising platitudes” to which Pope Francis has added his own quota.
“There are so few leadership roles currently available to women,” McAleese declared, due to “ludicrous” and antiquated church protocols, which render women “invisible and voiceless” while they are “expected to do all the hard work that keeps the church going.”
“Today, the Catholic Church lags noticeably behind the world’s advanced nations in the elimination of discrimination against women, a disgrace to an organization that claims to be created by God for love in the universe,” she said.
Over the past four years, the conference was held at the Casina Pio IV within the Vatican City State, home to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and Voices of Faith originally planned to hold this year’s women’s event there as well. After a proposed speakers’ list was returned from the Vatican missing three of the original names, however, event organizers chose to hold the conference elsewhere so they could participate.
An “outspoken advocate for women’s ordination and LGBT rights,” Ms. McAleese was one of those eliminated from a list of speakers by Irish-born Vatican Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who said it would be inappropriate to give her a podium within the Vatican to voice her views.
Calling Pope Francis, “a reforming pope,” McAleese challenged him to commit to “real, practical action on behalf of women.”
“Start the process,” she said. “Get it going. Put the fuel in the engine! Hit the button!”
McAleese’s son Justin said that his mother is committed to the Catholic Church and is a product of the Catholic education system.