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Church must open doors to women and married priests – says Parish Priest

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PP said Church must open doors to women and married priests


Áine Ryan

A MAYO Parish Priest has called for church doors to be opened to both married priests and women priests. In a damning indictment of the hierarchy, Father Kevin Hegarty says that just like the recent cataclysmic fate of Fianna Fáil,  church leaders would be swept out of office if it had a democratic system.
Father Hegarty made his provocative comments when he addressed the first Annual General Meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) held in the Green Isle Hotel, Dublin, last week. A priest of the Diocese of Killala, Father Hegarty ministers in Carne, near Belmullet.
Referring to the recent reports on church abuse, he observed: “The Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports, in their cumulative and compelling detail, highlight the acute level of dysfunction in the Church. I don’t sense that the majority of Catholic leaders in Ireland have actually got the extent of the breakdown in trust that these reports have engendered.
“The reports may not now dominate the daily headlines, but their effect has not gone away. I reckon that if Irish Catholics had a democratic way of reflecting their feelings on the subject, Church leaders would suffer a defeat as cataclysmic as that administered to Fianna Fail in the recent general election. Church leadership now seems divided and rudderless.”

Annual General Meeting

The first AGM of the recently formed ACP attracted around 300 people, the majority of whom were priests and religious.
Father Hegarty argued that the ‘Church’s official theology of sexuality fails to resonate with the actual experience of human intimacy’.  He said that most Catholic couples ignored Humanae Vitae’s prohibition on contraception and that he agreed with the late Dr Garret Fitzgerald who once said that the encyclical was crucial in undermining the Church’s authority.
“People began to lose confidence in an institution whose teaching on this matter was so out of sync with their experience. Its insistence on compulsory celibacy for clerics is of the same ilk. Its teaching on homosexuality has been heavily criticised, understandably, I suggest, for its insensitivity. And then there have been the scandals of the sexual abuse of children by priests and religious, followed by obfuscations, cover up, and carefully worded apologies,” he said.
A native of Ballina, Father Hegarty studied at Maynooth where he was ordained in 1981.
During his address, he noted: “As a priest I have worked in a crumbling church. In 1981 it seemed as if it might be different. Ordinations were still frequent enough not to inspire any great excitement beyond a photograph and a paragraph of purple prose in the local newspaper.
Continuing: “In retrospect 1981 was a placid time for Irish Catholicism. The golden glow of the papal visit still enveloped the institution. Now we recognise it to have been the last Ard Fheis of traditional Irish Catholicism. It induced a sense of complacency mixed with hubris – a deadly combination, as many sports teams have reason to know. The Irish people, it seemed, would remain semper fidelis, always faithful, without the complications of fresh thinking and renewed structures.”