A respected Papal biographer has called on former president Mary McAleese to “tone down the rhetoric” after she said Pope Francis hasn’t done enough to reform the Church.
Dr Austen Ivereigh, who wrote the book The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, tackled Prof. McAleese after she made the comments on the Late Late Show last week.
“Mary McAleese is an important progressive voice, but I think she can be more helpful for the Church if she tones down the rhetoric and looks at some of the concrete changes that Francis has made, and she will be taken more seriously,” Dr Ivereigh told The Irish Catholic.
This comes after she stated the Pope hadn’t met expectations of reform in the Church, saying: “I don’t think he’s been a great reformer in the sense that he hasn’t changed anything doctrinally”.
Dr Ivereigh said the common mistake conservative voices make about the Church is that doctrine can’t be changed, while liberals believe change can only be implemented by changing doctrine.
“She [Mary McAleese] misunderstands the nature of Church reform. Reform in the Church tradition is always pastoral, that’s to say it’s about enabling the Church to better communicate the Gospel and to enable people better to live the Gospel, so that’s the nature of Church change,” he said.
Prof McAleese, now chancellor of Trinity College Dublin, said the Pope has made positive moves by stoking up debate. She said since the time of Pope John XXII there has been talk of changing women’s role in the Church but because the decision-makers are men, “that voice is always going to be eliminated by virtue of the structure”.
“Francis in fairness to him has appointed quite a few women to the curia but that doesn’t cut it really, you’re talking about tiny numbers,” Prof. McAleese added.
However, Dr Ivereigh said that he would understand if a person was disappointed with Francis if they were looking at the Church “through the lens of contemporary notion of equality”, but that he doesn’t believe this leads can’t lead to a true understanding.
“For Mary McAleese and for others who think like her, the test of equality would be female ordination and until that happens she’s never going to believe that change is possible…” he said.