The continued treatment of women as less than equal to men is a “source of anger as well as sadness” in the majority of Catholic parishes in Dublin.
A “large majority of parishes” expressed “great hope that women will have a meaningful role in governance and ministries, including becoming deacons and priests” in the future Catholic Church, while they expressed “great openness to married men becoming priests”. They are also in favor of optional celibacy for priests.
These are among the key findings of an extensive consultation process with the people of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin as part of a synodal process undertaken in the Church around the world in preparation for an October Synod of Bishops. 2023 in Rome summoned by Pope Francis.
The Catholics consulted in Dublin also made “a strong plea for the Church to become truly inclusive not only in word but also in deed, reaching out to unmarried, divorced, remarried, LGBTQI+ couples. The church needs to explore how people can be included and stop looking for reasons to turn people away,” a summary of their views also found.
The report, Synodal Pathway Synthesis: the Archdiocese of Dublin Report, was published on the Archdiocese’s website dublindiocese.ie.
The consultation process in Ireland’s largest Catholic diocese involved 173 parishes which hosted gatherings for 10,500 participants. These were led by 325 facilitators, with an average attendance at gatherings of 35 to 40 participants. The largest gathering had 280 attendees, while another 2,200 people participated, mostly through focus groups.
This process was launched by the Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell last October and the result will be presented at a national pre-synodal meeting in Athlone on June 18 where the conclusions of the 26 Irish Catholic dioceses, following similar consultations , will be collected before being sent to Rome next August.
Among Dublin Catholics “there was a strong voice for urgent change. At the same time, there was concern that nothing would happen or that it would happen too slowly. In particular, there is an awareness that change may face resistance to renewal from within the church and from clericalism,” the report states.
Fears have also been expressed that “once the synodal process is completed, there will be a continuation of the decline which sees a drop in the number of priests, young people in the church, and no change in the role of women in the church or the option for priests to marry and enjoy family life”.
Many participants also found that “the language in the liturgy is a barrier. The language should speak clearly to people, relate to lay people and connect with people at Mass,” they said.
Older Catholics in Dublin spoke of their “grief, guilt and helplessness over the fact that their children are not participating in the sacramental life of the church and their grandchildren are not presented for baptism”.
In a homily last Friday, marking the feast day of the patron saint of Dublin St Kevin, Bishop Farrell invited “women and men who feel called to ministry to come forward for training in ministry as lectors, acolytes or instituted catechists” . These, he explained, were “lay ministers, women and men who are publicly recognized by the Church and appointed by the diocese to serve alongside priests and deacons in leading liturgies, supporting the faith formation of adults and accompanying families preparing for the sacraments”.
He also said he would appoint “pastoral leaders – deacons, religious and lay people – as needed when parishes cannot have a resident priest, to support the priest who will have pastoral responsibility for that parish. Their voluntary service will be supported. by the pastoral agents of the diocese.