Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese has said people are leaving the Catholic church “in droves” because they are tired of “little old men, trying to beat the drum of obedience”.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour on Thursday, Ms McAleese, who is a licensed canon lawyer as well as a civil lawyer, said she is a person of faith but is also “a person with a thinking brain”.
McAleese said she studied canon law to have “credibility” when criticising the church. She has openly spoken about misogyny in the Catholic church, but admitted that nothing she had ever said had changed anything .
She attributed this lack of progress to the church’s hierarchy, which she described as a “ small, self-serving hermetically-sealed group of men”.
“I am ignored completely by the church’s hierarchy. Utterly, absolutely ignored. But that’s okay because they’re only a tiny proportion of the church. They’re desperately powerful, yes, and they make the rules, yes, but the church is 1.2 billion people which is why I stay.”
She said the church is the biggest NGO in the world, hugely influential and a permanent representative at the UN.
“No other faith system has that power and influence in the world,” she added.
Ms McAleese said she remained in the church in the hope that one day, her “tiny little voice will sometime permeate upwards” and create change.
“The truth of the matter is, people are walking away in droves. They are tired of these old men, trying to beat the drum of obedience, being obedient to teaching that is long past its sell-by date and needs to be revised, needs to be critiqued,” she said.
“We belong to a church that is wonderful at talking out to the world from its moral pulpit. Wonderful for example on climate change…Pope Francis on migrants. Excellent. On outreach to the poor. Excellent.
She added: “On women, atrocious. Women in the Church, atrocious. On protections for children who are abused, very weak and lacking in credibility still.”