Papal expert rejects Mary McAleese’s misogyny claim

A highly-acclaimed expert on Pope Francis has dismissed claims by former President Mary McAleese that Pope Francis carries a “residual element of misogyny” that blinds him to the risks of insufficiently empowering women in the Church.

Mrs McAleese’s comments came in RTÉ’s Pope Francis, A Sinner, a Would You Believe? special this week in which she described the Pontiff as “good”, “gentlemanly” and “decent” but said, “I don’t think that he gets it or that anybody around him fully understands”.

“Why would they?” she continued, “you know, they’re all clerical male celibates who are just used to women kissing their hems, handing them their meals, polishing their tables.”

Dr Austen Ivereigh, author of the best-selling biography The Great Reformer, told The Irish Catholic that “having spoken to many women who are very close to Francis and have worked with him, I’m sure that Francis is a misogyny-free zone”.

“He has made very clear he wants to see more women at high levels in the Church and the curial restructuring has this as one of its aims,” he said.


“He has spoken often of the need for a theology of women, and believes that we need to think better how women’s unique gifts and perspectives can be preserved in the process of promoting them in the Church.”

Currently just 18% of those working in the curia and associated bodies are women, up from 17% four years ago. 41% of these 391 women have university degrees, working as department heads, archivists, journalists and in other roles.

Only two women, however, have prominent curial positions: Sr Nicoletta Spezzati is under-secretary of the Congregation for Religious and Flaminia Giovanelli is under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.