An overwhelming majority of Catholics in the Irish diocese of Killala are in favour of married priests, a change in Church teaching on homosexuality and the ordination of women.

Driving the news

Since January 2018, the Killala diocese, made up of 37,000 Catholics in 22 mainly rural parishes in the Mayo and Sligo counties, has been engaged in a listening process called ‘Placing Hope in Faith’.

The aim of the process “is to gather insights from across the diocese so as to inform Church planning for the future”, the Irish Church said in February.

Bishop of Killala John Fleming explained at the time that the process is an “inclusive initiative in which people of all ages have been invited to take part: those who participate in Mass each weekend, those who attend occasionally and those who may no longer walk with the Church for whatever reason”.

Fleming said that in setting the process in motion he had been inspired by Pope Francis, who said in his message for the 2016 World Communications Day that “listening… means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good”.

The bishop added that “the outcome of the listening process will result in proposals which will inform diocesan policy and underpin our Pastoral Plan for the Diocese”.


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Go deeper

The Irish News reported Friday on some key findings of the Killala listening process:

  • 85% of the faithful of Killala believe priests should be allowed to marry
  • 81% agree that priests who have married should be allowed to return to active ministry
  • 86% want Church teaching on homosexuality to be changed, and that all those excluded from the Church, regardless of sexuality, marital or family status, be accepted as full members
  • 80% say women should be allowed to become deacons
  • 69% say women should be able to become priests

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Why it matters

Writing in the Irish News, former priest Denis Bradley said the results of the survey were “radical”.

Bradley recalled that Bishop Fleming promised to implement those changes that were under his authority, and to pass along to the Irish Bishops’ Conference, and to the Vatican, those outside of his sphere of competence.

“There are still signs of life” in the Church, Bradley celebrated.

What’s next

In March this year, Bishop Fleming announced the listening process would continue with ten focus groups on the themes of Family/Pastoral Care, Prayer, Liturgy/Deacons, Youth, Management of parishes, Lay participation, Inclusion, Women in the Church, Education in the faith and Vocations.

The work of those focus groups continues apace.

The diocese expects their conclusions by December, and has promised to implement their initiatives in 2020.

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