Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland, has called on Pope Francis to develop a "credible strategy" to include women at every level in the Catholic Church's global structure, saying their exclusion from decision-making roles "has left the church flapping about awkwardly on one wing."
McAleese, speaking at the annual Voices of Faith event March 8, said the church "has long since been a primary global carrier of the virus of misogyny."
"Today, we challenge Pope Francis to develop a credible strategy for the inclusion of women as equals throughout the church's root and branch infrastructure, including its decision-making," she told a packed crowd in a small hall at the Jesuit order's Rome headquarters outside the Vatican's walls but on the city-state's territory.
McAleese, who led Ireland from 1997 to 2011 and is pursuing a doctorate in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, said she wanted "a strategy with targets, pathways and outcomes, regularly and independently audited."
"Failure to include women as equals has deprived the church of fresh and innovative discernment," she said. "It has consigned it to recycled thinking among a hermetically sealed, cozy male clerical elite."