Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

O'Leary leaves Catholic Church over stance on women priests

Veteran Irish broadcaster Olivia O'Leary has made a very public departure from the Catholic Church.

The Carlow-born journalist, best known for her "we were a bit worried about the curtsy" tribute to the Queen during the monarch's State visit, renounced Catholicism because of the church's refusal to ordain women, though the institutional cover-up of clerical child sex abuse was a "proximate factor".

This Christmas, Ms O'Leary, who was educated by Convent of Mercy nuns, will celebrate Christmas with carols and lessons at the Church of Ireland St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.

The former Today Tonight anchor, whose husband, economist and journalist Paul Tansey, died suddenly in September 2008, used her regular and popular essay on RTE radio's Drivetime programme to explain why she left the church some two years ago.

Despite having "beloved uncles" and "beloved aunts" who were priests and nuns, she said that she was marching out of the Catholic Church.

The central reason was the continued refusal of the church to accept the equality of women, "in other words, to ordain us".

"No longer at my age can I accept a subordinate role; not for myself, not for my daughter, not for my sisters, my nieces or friends," the 61-year-old current affairs presenter declared.

She added that other women had walked out of the church a long time ago.

"Maybe I just kept hoping," she added.

Her essay was partly provoked by an interview on the Pat Kenny radio show by the American Catholic theologian and intellectual George Weigel.

Ms O'Leary was not impressed.

"He [Mr Weigel] gave the same old non-reasons for the refusal of the church to ordain women, 'we have different tasks, different gifts' . . . 'God made men and women different for a reason'."

Ms O'Leary continued: "At this stage I don't feel rage so much as weariness -- that 'difference' is still latched onto as a reason to discriminate; weariness and, for me, relief, that it's all over now. I've moved on out."

She said it had taken her so long to leave because she knew, perhaps, how much she would miss the church, especially the Liturgy, which she described as "one of the the world's great art forms and "such a comfort at times of loss and pain".

And she was also mindful of what she called the "family connections" -- "beloved aunts who are nuns, beloved uncles who are priests and good kind friends who are nuns and priests".

"But it is their humanity that distinguishes them, not their role in an institution. And it is our humanity which distinguishes us, not the fact that we are women.

"So a church that does not recognise that. . . is in an ethical desert, like white-only churches in the American south or in apartheid South Africa."

She said that among the reasons she would celebrate Christmas in St Patrick's Cathedral was that she could stand tall there.

"I can stand tall because the Church of Ireland, whether I join it or not, accepts my full humanity. It ordains women.

"Otherwise I'll celebrate by simply being outside in the wind and the rain, outside in the sunshine walking the world that the creator made for us all equally.

"Not because we are male or female but because we are human," she concluded.





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