LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has backed his culture minister after she clashed with the Dublin archbishop over the question of the ordination of women.
Irish Culture Minister Josepha Madigan called for a change in the Church doctrine in a radio interview on Monday, after causing controversy by deciding to lead a Communion service in her local parish on Saturday evening when the assigned priest failed to appear.
After Archbishop Diarmuid Martin issued a statement on Tuesday saying Catholics were “hurt and upset” by the minister’s comments, Madigan said in a Facebook post “the Church has to change to reflect society as it is today.”
She also said she hoped to bring up the subject of women’s ordination with Pope Francis when he visits Ireland Aug. 25-26 for the World Meeting of Families taking place in Dublin.
Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Varadkar said Madigan deciding to conduct a Communion service “was a very nice thing and I understand she received a round of applause for doing so.”
“As regards female priests, I believe in equality in all things and equality in the workplace. That would include priests to marry and allowing women to become priests,” the prime minister continued.
“I also strongly believe in the separation of Church and State so that is not something the Government is going to be legislating about,” he said.
Varadkar – Ireland’s first openly homosexual leader – led the campaign to repeal Ireland’s pro-life Eighth Amendment in a referendum held on May 25.
Madigan was also heavily involved in efforts to repeal the amendment; in the end, the effort succeeded with over 66 percent of the vote.
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.
On Sunday, Varadkar pledged to support efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and the only jurisdiction in Britain and Ireland that outlaws the practice; abortion is also illegal in the province.