Former Irish President Mary McAleese called the Catholic Church an “Empire of Misogyny” while speaking in Rome ahead of the Voices of Faith conference.
McAleese’s comments came one day before the Voices of Faith conference held Thursday on International Women’s Day, during which female faith leaders demanded more influence and representation in church leadership, according to Newsweek. The Catholic Church in its current state promotes homophobia and misogyny, McAleese said and noted the church needs to reform in order to survive the future.
“The Catholic Church is one of the last great bastions of misogyny,” McAleese said, according to BBC. “It’s an empire of misogyny. There are so few leadership roles currently available to women.”
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McAleese’s allegation that the church is misogynistic stemmed not only from the lack of women in leadership, but also from their pro-life stance. Upholding human life at every stage as sacred instead of upholding abortion as a woman’s right, according to McAleese, is a form of male discrimination against women. A Catholic Church that is “homophobic and anti-abortion is not the Church of the future,” McAleese said, according to BBC.
McAleese echoed Pope Francis’ statements on women theologians. Women theologians “are the strawberry on the cake,” the pope told a Vatican theological commission in 2014 and that he believes there should be more female representation on the committee and in the church at large.
“We don’t want to be what the Pope describes as ‘the strawberry on the cake,'” McAleese said, according to BBC. “Our voices stir the winds of change, so we must speak out.”
McAleese’s opposition to Catholic doctrine is driven in part by the fact that her son is gay and has promoted homosexual tolerance and inclusion within the Catholic Church for 40 years, according to Newsweek. Her most recent comments were also sparked by Francis’ refusal to attend the Voices of Faith conference because of the inclusion of a woman who has also promoted gay and lesbian Catholic rights in Uganda, which has outlawed homosexuality. Catholic leadership also objected to the inclusion of English Catholic theology professor Tina Beattie.
The two women’s inclusion in the conference was “not appropriate,” U.S. Cardinal Kevin Farrell said and was also reportedly the official who blocked McAleese’s inclusion in the conference.
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