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Poll: most Irish Catholic women do not feel valued by the Church

By on Thursday, 4 November 2010

Cardinal Seán Brady of Armagh greets well-wishers (Photo: CNS)

Cardinal Seán Brady of Armagh greets well-wishers (Photo: CNS)

Irish Catholic women feel that they are not sufficiently appreciated by the Church, but their faith remains strong, according to a newly published survey.

The research, which compared attitudes between Catholic and Protestant women, found that 74 per cent of Catholic women surveyed felt that the Church did not treat them with “a lot of respect”. Among Protestant women, just 6.3 per cent felt that lack of respect.

However, 61 per cent of Catholic women said they looked to Mary as a positive role model who empowered them within the Church, compared with 27 per cent of Protestant women who looked to Mary.

When given a statement that the Church had tried to control their position in society, 72.3 per cent of Catholic women agreed compared with 19.7 per cent of Protestant women.

The research, carried out by Trinity College Dublin among more than 500 women across 12 counties in the Irish Republic between 2002 and 2006, also found that religious faith remains strong among women and they remain actively involved in the Church. Results were published in a book by Florence Craven of Trinity’s Social Attitude and Policy Research Group.

Dominican Sister Geraldine Smyth of the Irish School of Ecumenics said she was not surprised by the figures.

She said the high percentage “needs to be listened to and attended to, not written off as a lunatic fringe”.

Sister Smyth said the Catholic Church “is wonderful at highlighting marginalisation of women in society and standing up for vulnerable women in the social and political sphere”, but that “does not translate in to the Church where women are not sufficiently valued”.

She said that if there is to be a meaningful process of Catholic renewal in Ireland, “the voice of women must be acknowledged, listened to and valued”.

“Women have been excluded. This needs to be acknowledged and redressed in a practical way where the voices of women will be heard in structures within the Church,” she said.

The research confirmed anecdotal evidence and reports from various diocesan “listening sessions” around the country, where Catholic women expressed frustration about feelings of exclusion.

In the Diocese of Ossory, where more than 800 people participated in the session, the final report noted: “It was strongly felt that, while women make up two thirds of the congregation, they have little say or role within the Church and its structures.

“It was felt that if more people, particularly women, had been involved in leadership roles in the Church, the manner in which the abuse allegations were dealt with would have been different,” it added.

In Kerry, where more than 500 people participated, many people expressed strong views that the Church was marginalising lay people, particularly women. Some said the Irish Church’s introduction of the permanent diaconate further excluded women from playing a “real role” in the Church.

  • SPQRatae

    Florence Craven has form, making this so-called 'news' article about a so-called 'survey' even more worthless and manipulative than the usual 'survey' article.

    Please Catholic Herald, you are the best, perhaps only, properly Catholic paper left in Britain. Don't allow yourself to be taken in so easily by people with an ideological axe to grind…

  • Me

    I too feel I am not “respected alot” by my parish. They respect me, don't get me wrong, but alot.

  • James H

    So, they don't feel appreciated, but they're still faithful. Assuming they're not just being masochistic, why the disconnect?

    Perhaps the relentless drip-feed of media prompting led them to say what they felt they should?

    How on Earth does the permanent diaconate exclude women, anyway? It begs the question.

    Sorry, not buying.

  • Katie

    How sad! Why should we need recognition by the Church. We are after all servants of Christ. Instead we should look to the example of Our Lady and the wonderful female saints of the Church. To say that women are underrated in the Church is to misunderstand the role of man and woman as created by God and not be influenced by the feminist agenda so prevalent in todays society. Ask 'What can I do for the Body of Christ?' and keep giving for His sake, asking nothing in return, educating yourself in about the beauty of the Church's teachings and praying like a warrior. Your reward will be eternal. I am a 41 year old woman by the way.

  • Speransgaudebo

    I'm reminded of this exchange between Dudley Moore and John Gielgud in the film Arthur:

    Hobson: Would you remove your helmet, please?

    Arthur: Why?

    Hobson: Please.

    [Arthur hands him his helmet]

    Hobson: Thank you. Now your goggles.

    Arthur: Why?

    Hobson: Please.

    [Arthur hands him his goggles]

    Hobson: Thank you.

    [slaps him across the face repeatedly]

    Hobson: You spoiled little bastard! You're a man who has everything, haven't you, but that's not enough. You feel unloved. Arthur, welcome to the world. Everyone is unloved. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself. And incidentally, I love you.

  • LayApostle7

    This should not happen, we should all love one another, men or women alike as God loves us. There must not be any favorites at all. The church in Ireland should cease marginalizing lay people, particularly women, this is not what God wants.

  • Brendan

    Brendan: An opinion poll of 500 persons carried out over four years isn't of much genuine value for telling us about reality! Yes, Katie, we, men and women, are not in the Church to look for appreciation but to serve the Good Lord and love our neighbour. Good for you.

  • Joan Lumley

    I'm so sorry for these women. Why do they WANT 'leadership roles' in the church? Not everyohne can be a leader, and it's in any case not what the church is even about. Why should the curch emulate secular society in this respect?

  • Canada

    My First reaction is that this is just another Feminist ploy to get attention, and I just could not care any less about what the Feminists want. Second, When it comes to the laity in the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church has never really cared what the laity think. The Bishops think they are Popes and the Priests think they are Bishops. It is, in my experience, an exceptional parish where a particular priest has an active Parish Council and Financial Council, that actually have authority, where people have a sense of belonging. Many parishes have puppet councils made up of friends of the priest or people the priest can control with a smile, a pat on the back, and occasionally a bit of food. (I mean, how many times are we going to replace that roof on the church?)
    The system is not set up to care about the people who belong to the Church. We give money to help with the purchase of land and the building of new parish churches or schools or whatever. Then the building is built, and the parishes have to pay off the loan for the cost of construction. Once the building is payed for, it belongs to theChurch and they have the authority to do with that building what they want. There is a very real part of the Church that is simply business like.
    Don't get me wrong, the job of a priest is no easy task and people who want to be involved with their parish have many agendas ranging from humble pursuit of their faith to trying to hide the evil that lives in them by covering it with the cape of sanctity. The feminist agenda is still the feminist agenda and they are out to destroy the church that I love. Thank God that the religious orders that the feminist have infiltrated are dying out and new orders of people who are seeking God are rising.
    So you don't feel you have a real role in the Church? Get over it, outside the Clergy none of us do except for the few who are lucky enough to have priests who see themselves as servants to the Church, in the particular circle where they minister. That's life.

  • Ratbag

    Women have been doing their VERY IMPORTANT bit in the Roman Catholic Church since before the birth of Christ – Mary's “yes!” to God to become the Mother of Christ. Women witnessed everything in Christ's ministry including his forgiveness, his miracles, his suffering, his death and resurrection. Without women's witness … do you see what I'm getting at?

    Having said that, I do not have a beef about women's role in the Roman Catholic Church – from priesthood to other issues. I'm at peace with the decision and it's not merely out of obedience to the Vicar of Christ.

    With the greatest respect to the bishops who are making their Apostolic Visitation to Ireland, they could also investigate and remedy issues in Irish dioceses relating to how parishes can get the most out of ALL the faithful? For many years, the Irish church has been a law unto itself – as if it was a separate entity – and that caused the many problems which has got it into the mess it's in! They should be in harmony with Rome, not out of tune!

    Women, such as the female martyrs of the early church, St Catherine of Sienna, St Teresa of Avila right up to the modern times with St Mary McKillop and St Gianna Mola have given great witness to the treasure of our faith. We should never forget that fact!

  • Bwaj

    Perhaps they should read St. Paul's instructions that women do not teach in Church etc.,. I believe we have gone too far. Women should think themselves lucky the true Church permits this – what Protestant faith communities (they are not churches as there is only one Church) do is irrelevant – as for feminism. We should have less of that nonsense in the Catholic Church thank you. The father of feminism is Satan. Didn't he tempt the first woman to disobey God's commands?

  • Bwaj

    Did Our Blessed Mother ask to be a bishop? Or a priest? Or a deacon? Did she refuse to submit her will to God's commands? No! It is lacking in humility for a woman to say she wants to be a bishop or priest or deacon.

  • alex

    I think you name describe you perfectly.