LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Irish Culture Minister Josepha Madigan has called for the ordination of women after a war of words with Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin about the vocation situation in Ireland.
Madigan was a leading supporter of the campaign to repeal Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which outlawed abortion in the country. The May 25th referendum succeeded, with over 66 percent of the population voting to remove the pro-life clauses from the constitution.
Madigan – who serves as a lector at the church – was reported to have decided to lead a Communion service after a priest failed to arrive to celebrate Mass at the Church of St Therese in the Mount Merrion suburb of the Irish capital.
Afterwards, she was quoted in the Irish press as saying the situation was a “sad reflection of the times we live in that there are no priests available to say Saturday evening Mass in one of the busiest parishes in Dublin.”
“A lack of ordinations and the age profile of priests mean a shortage is inevitable. And it’s not just here, I know this is an issue for many parishes across the country,” Madigan told the Irish Independent.
On Monday, the minister spoke to RTÉ, the national broadcaster, about the incident.
“It might have been better, for example, if there was training for us in a situation like that where we weren’t sure whether we could read the Gospel or not. We chose not to in the end,” she said.
“We didn’t do the collections, and everybody pulled together and handled it very well, but I do think that there’s a bigger issue here. I think the Church should be ordaining women, I think it should be optional that priests can marry,” continued Madigan.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Martin said Madigan’s remarks “have caused parishioners in Mount Merrion and further afield considerable distress,” adding that many people contacted his office “to express their hurt and upset at the Minister’s comments, as reported in the media.”
“There is no shortage of priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin for the celebration of Sunday Mass. Due to a misunderstanding, the priest assigned to Mass in the parish of Mount Merrion on Saturday evening, failed to turn up,” the archbishop said.
Martin also said,“It is in no way correct to say that the Minister ‘said Mass’,” as reported by several newspapers.
“It is regrettable that Minister Madigan used this occasion to push a particular agenda. Her expressed view that a mix up in a Dublin parish on one particular Saturday evening should lead to the Universal Church changing core teachings is bizarre,” he continued.
“Minister Madigan might consider listening to the voices of those people who disagree with her public comments, she might consider the hurt she has caused to parishioners who deem her actions deeply disrespectful,” Martin’s statement concluded.
Madigan then took to Facebook to respond to the archbishop, asking him: “What advice would he have given me and my two colleagues last Saturday evening? Cancel the Mass?”
In a post titled “If Catholic Church is to be truly reflective of its people, it must ordain women,” the government minister said she believes “the Church has to change to reflect society as it is today.”
“I am a member of the Catholic Church and my faith in God is integral to who I am. Therefore, I want my Church to be better, to be inclusive and listen. If the Church is to be truly reflective of its people, and if it is seeking an obvious solution to the shortage of clergy, then ordaining women is the answer,” Madigan wrote.
The culture minister is the latest government figure to publicly challenge the Church ahead of Pope Francis’s Aug. 25-26 visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families taking place in Dublin.
Katherine Zappone, the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, warned in March that “never again should public statements or remarks which seek to isolate certain families be tolerated,” adding she hopes the World Meeting of Families will “not be used as a platform for remarks which exclude, isolate or hurt any family.”
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, the first openly gay Irish leader, earlier this year told the nation’s legislature that families led by same-sex couples should be welcomed at the papal event.
This weekend, former president Mary McAleese said that baptizing babies in the Church is creating “infant conscripts who are held to lifelong obligations of obedience,” and should be ended.
Once the most Catholic nation in Europe, revelations of clerical sexual abuse and poor conditions in Catholic care facilities has left public confidence in the Church at its lowest level in the history of Ireland.
The vote to legalize abortion is just the latest blow; in 2015 Ireland held a referendum on same-sex marriage in which 62 percent of the voters backed changing the constitution to allow the practice.
The government is now pledging to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions after the results of the latest referendum are legislated.
In her remarks on Tuesday, Madigan said she would bring up the matter of women’s ordination – and ending mandatory priestly celibacy – with Pope Francis in August, “if I do get the opportunity.”