A Catholic bishop has shelved plans to introduce an all-male Diaconate after opposition from lay women to the move.
The Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Kieran O’Reilly, has stated that it was never his intention to hurt anyone arising from his proposal to introduce the Diaconate.
Last month, Dr O’Reilly published a pastoral letter outlining his plans for a Diaconate, where he invited married and single men to apply to train as deacons.
The move came against the background of declining vocations, with more than half of Killaloe’s priests aged 66 or older. Between them, they minister to 56 parishes across Clare as well as parts of Offaly, Laois, Tipperary, and Limerick.
The Diaconate proposal sparked a poster campaign in which literature expressing opposition to the new ministry appeared on parish noticeboards.
A forum to give women a platform to express their views was due to proceed last night in spite of Dr O’Reilly’s U-turn. Kathleen McDonald organised the forum and yesterday said she was delighted with Dr O’Reilly’s decision.
“We were offended that the Church in Killaloe was not going ahead with any alternative to a Diaconate that could involve women as women do most of the lay work on the ground around the diocese,” she said.
“We were hugely disappointed that the diocese was going down the road of putting in place another layer of a male-only ministry and we very much welcome Bishop O’Reilly’s move to keep the dialogue ongoing, which is very, very important.”
In a letter read out at Masses across the diocese over the weekend, Dr O’Reilly said: “I have listened very carefully to the observations and concerns raised by individuals and groups in the diocese... In the light of the conversations held over the past weeks and in the interest of allowing the further implementation of the pastoral plan, I will not now proceed with the introduction of the permanent Diaconate at this time in the diocese.”
Dr O’Reilly told Clare FM he was surprised by the reaction to the proposal.
“I was a little bit surprised by the manner in which the discussion took a very negative approach and went very far away from what my intentions were and people second guessing me on a different level altogether which did really surprise me.”
According to Church law, only men can become Deacons. Dr O’Reilly said: “As that ministry is constituted at the moment, I was not in a position to be able to offer it to those who have felt very hurt and who felt over the last couple of weeks that they are excluded. May I say from the very beginning that it was never my intention.”
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