The Catholic Church has 30 years of life left in it

Feminist theologian Dr Niamh Middleton, explains to Stephen Pittman why the Church could become extinct within a generation.

“Catholic women object strongly to having a celibate male priesthood marked by such scandals dictating their sexual behaviour to them, especially in relation to contraception.”

 

Dr Middleton believes that, unless the Church treats women “equally”, numbers will continue to fall “at an alarming rate” leaving just “the most elderly, pious men”.

 

She says: “Based on my estimates, I would say the Catholic Church has 30 years of life left in it.”

 

In 2008, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced that any bishop ordaining a woman would be excommunicated.

According to the Vatican, women cannot be ordained because Jesus willingly chose only men as his apostles. And, in 2016, Pope Francis said:“On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the final word is clear.”

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Dr Niamh Middleton believes the Church could be 'extinct' by 2050.

The Church will become ‘women-free’ in Britain and Ireland within 20 years and die out completely within a generation unless it reverses its “sexist and unbiblical” policy that only men can become priests, a leading academic and theologian has warned.

 

Unless it revokes the doctrine, the Church will become ‘extinct’ in Britain and Ireland by 2050, according to Doctor Niamh Middleton.

 

Dr Middleton, a practising Catholic, says: “Women have been leaving the Catholic Church for decades as a direct result of its antiquated and discriminatory views, and because of repeated sex abuse and financial scandals involving its male leaders.

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“Catholic women object strongly to having a celibate male priesthood dictating their sexual behaviour to them."

But Dr Middleton believes there is a “tsunami” of support toward the integration of more women priests, and subsequently bishops, and also claims many senior male leaders would back such reforms.

 

She is now urging Pope Francis to establish an international panel of female theologians to produce a clear roadmap for the Church’s future.

 

Her recommendations are set out in Jesus and Women: Beyond Feminism, a new book that examines Jesus’ pro-views of women and includes insights from religion, evolutionary biology, and the #MeToo movement.

 

She says the Bible depicts Jesus as favouring equality of the sexes, unheard of in a time when the fiercely patriarchal Jewish society treated women as the ‘second sex’.

 

If the Church recognised and endorsed women as equals, it would only be a matter of time until it also approved the use of contraception, she added.

 

Dr Middleton, who was a lecturer in theology and philosophy at Dublin City University until taking early retirement earlier this year to write Jesus and Women, said: “The only way to save the Catholic Church from medium and long-term collapse, not only Ireland and the UK but around the world, is for the Pope to allow the ordination of female priests and bishops.

 

“It should also focus more on the person of Christ, with emphasis on his treatment of women so that Catholics will be able to distinguish between institutional Catholicism and authentic Christianity.

 

“This would give women and their families an incentive to return to the church because they would feel less isolated and more equal.

 

“The outcome would be a more robust, inclusive Catholic Church that has the potential of surviving well into the next millennium.”

 

• Jesus and Women: Beyond Feminism by Niamh M. Middleton is available now in hardcover via The Lutterworth Press, priced £50, and for pre-order in paperback, priced £20. For more information visit www.niamhmiddletonauthor.com.