ACP’s comparison of Church to Taliban ‘stomach churning’

ACP’s comparison of Church to Taliban ‘stomach churning’ Fr Roy Donovan. Photo: Limerick Leader
Jason Osborne and Chai Brady

Prominent Catholic laywomen have described comments from a priest comparing the Church’s treatment of women to the extremists of the Taliban as “very offensive”.

Fr Roy Donovan, one of the clerics leading the Association of Catholic Priests, defended his comments this week admitting that it was an “extreme” comparison but he is satisfied it worked to draw attention to his concerns.

“The Church is Taliban-like because women are not involved in leadership or governance or decision-making. To all purposes they are excluded from public forums in the Church,” he said on RTÉ Radio One on Monday.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan who has facilitated lay participation across the Church in Ireland, described the comments as “misconceived, misleading and very offensive.

“It is also profoundly damaging and dangerous to women like those in Afghanistan who are living in terror or being hunted down and murdered by the Taliban today,” the crossbench member of the House of Lords told The Irish Catholic.

Speaking to this newspaper, Fr Donovan admitted “the comparison is extreme, but I’ve been saying this for the last seven or eight years and nobody in the Church is listening and now by using the Taliban, if I’ve got people to listen, to wake up, and to see what’s happening and going on with the exclusion of women in all these different areas, then I’m ok with that”.

Baroness O’Loan warned: “it’s easy to grab a headline by the use of language such as that used by Fr Donovan,” but that it’s much harder “to make a thoughtful, constructive and reasoned submission to contribute to the future of the Church we love, with all its faults”.

Adding to the criticism of the comments, Spirit Radio host and Catholic commentator Wendy Grace said she found the comparison “stomach-turning” and “truly shocking”.

“I find it hard to identify in any way with Fr Roy’s comments. My experience as a Catholic woman – a young Catholic woman – is that the Catholic Church is truly the place where I have found respect and empowerment,” Ms Grace said.

She noted that these comparisons are often made by priests “that do not know a lot of young, female Catholics”, and encouraged Fr Donovan to “connect up with the many incredible initiatives run by women, for women, many of which I’m involved in”.

Fr Tim Hazelwood, another one of the ACP leaders defended his colleague saying that Fr Donovan had not made a direct comparison.

“He didn’t mean it that way – he meant it in the way that women are excluded. Every time you say something, it can be interpreted in a way, the same as every time The Irish Catholic writes something, it can be interpreted in a certain way.

“If we are to be relevant in today’s world, the exclusion of women as we exclude them – young women are abandoning the Church because of that – I think we need to really take stock of it and look at it,” Fr Hazelwood said.