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Ban on women priests morally indefensible

The recently announced intended visit of Pope Francis to Ireland could herald an awakening of the Catholic Church from years of complacency, or it could degenerate into a feast of triumphalist ceremonial activities, leaving everything as it was, particularly the place of women in the church.

The purpose of the last papal visit to these islands was to officiate at the beatification of John Henry Newman. My abiding memory of this occasion, based on television coverage, was that of cameras panning across a sea of men overdressed in red and purple, with not a woman in sight.

Sadly, Pope Francis, a compassionate and liberal-minded man, has his hands tied by the seemingly incurable male dominance that permeates the institution he leads - an institution ruled by men and patriarchal to the core.

However, his recent statement of intention to support the ordination of women as deacons provided a ray of light, somewhat dimmed, however, by the strong reiteration of the current ban on ordaining women to the priesthood.

What is most disturbing is the impression that this prohibition is on the same footing as some of our central Christian beliefs.

With regard to the inequitable treatment of women by religious groups, anti-discriminatory law does not apply; yet the very essence of law is that it applies to all citizens.

The principle of equality requires that in the distribution of any benefit, or role, all must be treated in exactly the same manner unless there are relevant reasons for doing otherwise.

The Catholic Church, though not in breach of the law, is in breach of this moral principle in that it does not provide relevant reasons for discriminating against women.

The most bizarre reason provided for excluding women is that the priest represents Christ, who was a man - as were all his disciples.

This is not a reason, but a gratuitous assertion.

PHILIP O'NEILL

By email

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