A group of 12 Irish priests have signed an open letter asking for free discussion on the matter
In an open letter disseminated this month, 12 Irish priests have called for a free discussion on "the full equality of women in all facts of church life" but would reform create any real change?
Gender equality has long been a contentious issue in the Catholic Church. In 1994, Pope John Paul II said that the exclusion of women from priesthood could not even be discussed, as did his successor Pope Benedict. Despite a more liberal approach to many issues, Pope Francis has also maintained a hard-line stance on female ordination.
The priests' statement begins with a quotation from St Paul’s letter to the Galatians, that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
“We believe that we can no longer remain silent because to do so colludes with the systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church. So, in the spirit of Pope Francis constant encouragement of dialogue, we are calling for free and open discussion concerning the full equality of women in all facets of church life, including all forms of ministry,” the letter continues.
Pope Francis “has said that Pope John Paul II had reflected at length on this matter, had declared that women could never be priests and that, therefore, no further discussion on the ordination of women to ministry is possible”.
The 12 priests say “we, the undersigned, believe that this situation is very damaging, that it alienates both women and men from the church because they are scandalised by the unwillingness of church leaders to open the debate on the role of women in our church. This alienation will continue and accelerate.”
While Pope Francis was quoted as saying that "women had the capacity to be priests", it is unlikely that he would contradict his predecessor's viewpoint.
Father Tony Flannery, one of the signatories of the letter, spoke to Pat Kenny about his decision, along with 11 others to pen the letter: "The cultural factors that were involved when Jesus was alive dictated that men would be the head of the movement but we have moved on from this."
For Fr Flannery, the fact no women have a role in the decision-making process within the Church is wrong.
But not everyone agrees. Father Joe McDonald, parish priest at St Andrew's in Ballyfermot, Dublin, believes that while nobody can argue against equality, "the door is closed" in terms of introducing women into the institution and it's not really necessary.
"There is a huge amount of women carrying our church and that are making all decisions and its their Church and they know that I'm [as parish priest] just passing through."
We want to know what you think. Would female ordination dramatically change the Catholic Church? Let us know in the poll below:
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If you'd like to hear the discussion in full, you can listen back to part 2 of The Pat Kenny Show here.