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Open forum on ‘exclusion of women’

A TEN-strong group of women, disenchanted with the Diocese of Killaloe’s plan for men-only deacons, have organised an open forum on the issue at the Dromoland Inn on Monday, September 15 at 8pm.

The forum, open to men and women, will be titled Diaconate! An Inclusive Church?

On August 15, The Clare Champion revealed that, as deacons, married men could preside over baptisms, weddings, funerals and other ceremonies. However, women cannot train to become deacons.

“It will be an inclusive forum for anybody who wants to come and talk about this issue,” Kathleen McDonald, chairperson of Cross Pastoral Council explained.

“We have formed a Killaloe Forum on the diaconate. There is a group of 10 women involved in setting up this forum for women and men. It’s to give people an opportunity to discuss this topic. Lots of women and men have been talking in their parishes. This isn’t just a women’s issue,” she stressed.

The diocesan office is to issue a response to this development.

Fr Albert McDonnell, chancellor and diocesan director of the Permanent Diaconate Programme, has said previously, “It is men only. That is the practice of the church at the moment. It is the Sacrament of Orders; dioconate, priesthood and bishops are confined to men.”
Kathleen McDonald has been actively involved in the Cross parish for 18 years. She maintains that there is a climate of fear in the Killaloe diocese currently, following the revelations that women are to be excluded from training as deacons.

However, she says that what is more frustrating is that the Killaloe diocese undertook a “listening process” in 2013.

“They’re very angry about this decision of the diocese, particularly after the listening process, where the diocese asked for people’s opinions,” she noted.

“They produced a pastoral plan and now people feel that the church said they wanted to listen but they haven’t taken on board what people wanted to see in their church. It was supposedly going to be more inclusive. They might say that this is including men who want to be involved at this level but they are actually excluding people. It’s another level of ministry. Most people don’t want to see that. They want to see a greater involvement of people on the ground,” Ms McDonald stressed.

“In the pastoral plan, it said that ‘there was widespread agreement among priests and lay people that a collaborative model of church, based on partnership between priests and people, is the desired way forward’. This is why our diocese is struggling with this. They might say that other dioceses have to implement it but here we have had the listening process and we thought that people wanted to see greater involvement of women in ministry at parish level. Yet they now have come up with this. It’s not that women want to be ordained. That isn’t the issue. It’s a question of being inclusive,” she reiterated.

People in the Killaloe Diocese are fearful of speaking openly on the issue, she suggested. “They’re frightened to let their voice be heard. They’re afraid of repercussions from their parish priest and some people are afraid that they might lose their job. That’s a very real fear to some people. They’re afraid of being victimised so, hopefully, if people have the courage to speak their truth and give their opinion, maybe we can see how we can move this forward,” she said.

“People are really animated about this more than any other issue. We don’t want conflict but we are worried about this. The 10 of us involved in bringing this forward feel sick when we think of what the consequences of this might be,” she added.

Furthermore, posters have appeared in churches questioning the Killaloe Diocese on the issue. “They were definitely up in our parish. I’ve heard that they were up across the diocese expressing dissatisfaction that the diaconate was exclusively male,” Kathleen McDonald stated.

By Peter O’Connell

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