LETTER TO THE WOMEN OF IRELAND

N.B. Over the next four weeks the ‘rumblings’ will be taken up with the upcoming Referendum. The titles
are as follows:
Today: ‘Letter to the Women of Ireland’
May 6th: ’10 Questions about the Referendum’
May 13th: ‘Darkness Deepens?’
May 20th: ‘The Polling Booth’

Dear Sisters,

I realise from the outset, with regard to the referendum, that as I am a man, and not only a man, but a man without wife or children, many would feel I should keep quiet. For some this would be further compounded by the fact that I am a Catholic Priest. I appreciate there are many of you want men like me to just simply shut up. There is a part of me, in order to avoid the flak that will be hurled my direction, would be tempted to stay quiet. However this is not possible, as hopefully will be evident later. As a priest I do not see how I could remain silent in these days.

There are three things I want to say today. The first is to say thank you. I have been very fortunate in the women who have shaped my life. My mother, my grandparents, my aunts, my sister and my nieces have all enriched my life. I am not forgetting some of my best teachers who were women. I am not forgetting my friends who are women and all the women I meet throughout my ministry. Presently in my role as Pastor here in St. Matthews I am conscious that we would find it difficult to function without all the women, especially those in leadership, who are committed to keeping our local church going. For  your courage, for your energy and commitment, for your ability to mix the gentle and the tough. Thank you. Thank you in a special way for not letting us, as a Church, off the hook. Thanks for kicking butt, especially when it’s ecclesial butt! Thanks for standing up to the sexist Church. Thanks for challenging us.Thanks for repeatedly reminding us that the crozier that does not give, cracks.

This brings me to the second thing I wish to offer you today which is an apology. This apology is heartfelt. I apologise as a man for all the times you have been abused and disrespected and as a priest I apologise for the times you have been humiliated and excluded by the Church. I know this has been particularly painful for you when you have been hurt by the Church you love. I am very conscious today of the many women who ended up in the ‘Magdalene laundries’ and of course for every one of them there was a man, a man, indeed men who, for the most part, seemed to have disappeared from their lives, and the life of their child. I am particularly saddened for those women who had a child whose father was a priest and for how they and their child were treated. For the crass, ignorant and belittling way you have been treated by some men I am sorry. I regret especially when this has done by those of us representing Church.

The third and final thing I wish to say to you today is to make a plea to you. It is a plea that is so serious that it is on the level of our soul and our conscience. It is a plea that we will all take time to reflect and pray as part of our preparation for the referendum. The posters I read today, driving up through Ballyfermot, spoke of ‘compassion in a time of crisis’, of ‘abortion as a human right’, and ‘it’s my body’. Would it be ok to put beside these: Can we have compassion for the helpless baby growing within as well? Can it actually be a human right if it is at the expense of another human being? ‘ Is not one of the great joys of being a woman, the possibility of having another little human being slowly growing within her? Surely at this point there is no longer one body here but a second one? A number of people have asked me where does conscience come into it and I am always at pains to point out that before doing anything we have a duty to inform our conscience. For us as Catholics it is important to at least hear, and do our best to understand not only what the Church has to say on the topic, but also why the Church is taking such a position. I remain yours,

Joe McDonald ( Fr.) St. Matthews, Ballyfermot

Next Weeks Rumblings: ‘10 Questions about the Referendum’

2 Comments

  1. Thank you Fr. Joe for such honesty. I was lucky to have 1 beautiful daughter before my health affected my ability to conceive again. I had 4 months of counselling to decide whether or not I should have a hysterectomy. We tried to conceive a 2nd time but unfortunately the decision whether or not to have a hysterectomy and our only chance of having a 2nd child when my daughter was 12 months old was taken out of my hands due to the risk to my life. I was 31 years old and I felt like my whole world was turned upside down. Thankfully 10 years on I have a very well adjusted fantastic daughter and a wonderful husband who have completed my life. I do feel for my daughter when her cousins and friends get new siblings but at the end of the day she has her mammy hopefully for many more years to come and she wants for nothing.

  2. I find this disturbing. To start buy thanking all the women, then to appologise for wrongs you have not partaken in? It would be easy to apologise for something you haven’t done.
    Its laden with judgement the last paragraph. As the constitution stands women’s lives and health is second to the unborn fetus.
    You have no right to add more peessure on women to go back to sleep. Full of fear that if women have the right to chose that they would make such a decision lightly or without it being conscious.
    People who fear the yes vote are more afraid of women having freedom over their own sexuality. Terified we will be destructive and murderous.
    The opposite will happen when we step away from a patriarchal society. Women will regain their freedom and autonomy. God gave us free will, all of us. Not just men. Who are you to judge? If you wish to judge you do not wish to understand.
    If you are for sisters of Ireland you would want for them the best medical care, freedom to choose, a right to be looked after in their own country and the right to live and choice to live during a life threatening pregnancy, or illness during pregnancy. It is not just about an introduction of legislation about abortion. You would want women to be able to terminate a dead baby instead of having to carry it knowing its dead. The amendment is barbaric and needs to change for the health, freedom, wellbeing and healing of psyche of Irish Women.

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