Misogyny pervades every aspect of Catholic church life and it needs to come to an end, a leading Irish theologian has said.
Trinity College Dublin (TCD) professor Siobhan Garrigan said it was fundamentally unjust that women could not join the priesthood.
Prof Garrigan made the comments ahead of the visit by Pope Francis to Ireland this week to attend the World Meeting of Families (WMOF).
“The priesthood has become a hiding place for men who don’t want to deal with their sexuality,” she said.
“That’s just one of the problems caused by the fact that women are not allowed to be priests.
“Only men are allowed to be priests and they are required to be celibate. Both those rules are terrible.”
She added: “You have to be identified as a man to even begin training for priesthood. That is just fundamentally unjust.
“We should be pushing for women priests.”
Prof Garrigan said the Church changing its rules to allow women to become priests would not solve the misogyny problem overnight but it would be an important milestone for the institution.
“It’s only one step on the road to where we need to get to,” she said.
“Where we need to get to is an end to misogyny.
“Misogyny pervades every aspect of church life.”
The Loyola chair of Catholic theology and head of the school of religion at TCD said she would be a lot happier about the pontiff’s visit if it was not tied to the WMOF.
The WMOF, which gets under way in Dublin on Tuesday, has faced criticism from LGBT+ groups, who have complained about being left out.
“He’s coming to celebrate an incredibly exclusive and outdated model and retrograde notion of family life and of Catholicism,” Prof Garrigan said.
She added: “The Church’s views on sexuality and gender have just done untold and immense harm.
“There are numerous examples of that - from mother and baby homes and Magdalene Laundries on the one hand, and also the hurt caused by the clerical sexual abuse horror, but by the Church’s ongoing attempts to cover it up, to minimise it and to perpetuate a culture of secrecy around it.”
The professor described the WMOF event as “a jingoistic propaganda machine for some very outdated ideas, ideas that have done a lot of harm”.
“If he was coming to an event that was championing the combating of poverty or the end of consumer capitalism I would be looking to meet him,” she said.
Despite her criticisms, Prof Garrigan acknowledged that tens of thousands of people would turn out to see Pope Francis even if they did not agree with all of the Church’s teachings.
“People will go to see him because he’s a mega superstar,” she said.
“If we have A-list celebrities, then he is A star, star ... that’s why people will go and see him.
“He’s the biggest celebrity it gets.”