Former president Mary McAleese has made a speech saying it is “completely bonkers” for Pope Francis to ask bishops’ advice regarding church teaching on the family.
She said there was “just something profoundly wrong and skewed” about asking “150 male celibates” to review the Catholic Church’s teaching on family life.
The former Irish figurehead was commenting on the planned October synod on the issue when she said: “The very idea of 150 people who have decided they are not going to have any children, not going to have families, not going to be fathers and not going to be spouses – so they have no adult experience of family life as the rest of us know it – but they are going to advise the pope on family life; it is completely bonkers.”
McAleese was speaking in a public interview at UCD to mark her receipt of the university’s highest honour, the Ulysses medal.
The former president, who now lives in Rome where she is studying canon law, also said Pope Francis had raised expectations of change but the odds of this happening were “very poor”. Although the pope said he wanted a new role for women in the church, women priests were not being considered and other senior roles in the Vatican continue to be filled by men in a manner which lacked transparency.
“You don’t need a new theology of women, you just need to end the old boys club,” she said.
The former President added that while she hoped the October synod “will be a process of real introspection and debate”, she had not moved “from hope to expectation”.
In advance of the meeting, the Vatican has circulated a questionnaire worldwide seeking feedback on pastoral issues of marriage and family.
Mrs McAleese commented: “I wrote back and said I said I’ve got a much simpler questionnaire and it’s only got one question and here it is: How many of the men who will gather to advise you as pope on the family have ever changed a baby’s nappy? I regard that as a very, very serious question.”
The public interview was conducted by Prof Conor Gearty of the London School of Economics.