Irish Bishop halts plan for Permanent Diaconate after women protest

Independent Catholic News
By: Claire Bergin

The bishop of one of the largest dioceses in Ireland, has put on hold plans to introduce the Permanent Diaconate, after consulting with Pastoral Leadership groups, several of whom had protested that many functions of the proposed deaconate are already being performed by laywomen – who cannot apply to become deacons.

Women campaigners in the diocese of Killaloe said they asked Bishop Kieran O’Reilly to “find a more equitable solution”.

The diocese currently has 100 priests serving 58 parishes, but more than half of them are over 66 years old.  In 2004, more than 1,000 people in the diocese contributed to a diocesan pastoral plan.  Since that time the diocese has held a number of consultations and gatherings to look at the future of the Church in Killaloe.

Kathleen McDonald, who is very involved in catechizes, retreat facilitation, as well as in parish and diocesan pastoral councils, told the Irish Examiner: “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.”

Bishop O’Reilly said he was surprised at the reaction of the women and had not intended to make the women feel excluded.

Last Sunday the diocese issued the following letter:

Following consultation with many of the Pastoral leadership groups in the Diocese on the question of the introduction of the Permanent Diaconate, Bishop Kieran has issued a note to be read at all Masses in the Diocese this weekend.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I would like to address you on the reactions to the recent publication of the Pastoral Letter on the Permanent Diaconate.
I have listened very carefully to the observations and concerns raised by individuals and groups in the diocese. It was my intention with the invitation to further explore different ministries open to us in the Church at the moment for the benefit of all the community.

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.

I believe that the level of engagement shown by the recent dialogue has brought to the surface a sign of the energy and commitment of many people in our church. I encourage this dialogue to continue as I believe it will bring great benefits to the Church in the Diocese and the mission entrusted to all of us by Jesus Christ.

The implementation  of the Pastoral Plan over the coming years remains a priority for the diocese.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin ordained Ireland’s first eight permanent deacons in modern times,  at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral in June 2012. Since then  about 20 more men have since been ordained permanent deacons across Ireland.

Bishop Kieran O’Reilly is a member of the Society of African Missions. He served in Liberia for two years before studying for a licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.  From 1984 to 1989 he lectured at the major seminary in Ibadan, Nigeria. From 1990 until his appointment as Bishop of Killaloe he served on the Irish and International Councils of the Society of African Missions. At the time of his appointment he was serving his second term as Superior General of the Society. He was ordained as Bishop of Killaloe on the 29th August 2010.