Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown has signalled an openness to women priests, though insisted that there is no possibility of women being ordained “at the present time”.
Dr McKeown – who was appointed Bishop of Derry by Pope Francis in 2014 – also said that the hierarchy had to face serious questions about seminaries for training future priests, including Maynooth.
Dr McKeown made the comments in an Irish-language interview broadcast by BBC Northern Ireland this week.
On the issue of women priests, he said: “If that’s God’s will in our day, I’m happy to accept it.” However, he added that “there is no possibility at the present time women will be priests”.
Pope Francis has repeatedly insisted that the Church will not re-open the question of women’s ordination. At a recent press conference, the Pontiff declared the matter to be a closed issue pointing out that “Pope St John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands”. He was referring to a 1994 document by Pope John Paul that closed the door on a female priesthood. The Vatican says this teaching is an infallible part of Catholic tradition.
On the issue of the training of future priests, Bishop McKeown said: “Maybe we shouldn’t send anyone to somewhere like Maynooth.
“Maynooth was formed 200 years ago. Three hundred years or 400 years ago it didn’t exist,” he said.
He said that the Irish bishops had to struggle with the question of “what is the best way to prepare priests or prophets in this day and age?”
Referring to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s contention that seminarians might benefit from training that is more parish-based, Bishop McKeown said “this is an important question and he [Archbishop Martin] may have a point”.