Former president of Ireland Mary McAleese has spoken out about the need for power sharing for women  in the Catholic Church. She is currently in the U.S. teaching  as a visiting scholar at Boston College.

She said increasing the power of the laity includes increasing the power and role of women in the church. The Vatican she pointed out is one of the few places in the world where women still cannot vote.

She said, “From the beginning, women have been the mainstay of the church.” She added, “It’s deeply offensive that they are not included in the decision-making process.”

Pope Francis was the first pope to include women in the washing of the feet ceremony before Easter, but he has also restated that the church will not ordain women.

McAleese was speaking in an interview with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, “There has to be a vehicle for the delivery of ecclesiastical services, and the best alternative is laypeople.”

Talking about the Vatican II Council in the 1960’s, which implemented several church reforms including celebrating Mass in English, she said, “It’s been 50 years, and we have really seen no change.” She continued, “The church would be much better off, if the pope shared power with his college of bishops, and, if laypeople could become more involved.” With the current decrease in vocations and fewer priests available to officiate at religious ceremonies, her call for more lay participation hits a chord.

McAleese pointed out that church canon says lay people have a responsibility to advise their pastors on religious matters. “It’s not about fighting over issues, but discussing them.” She continued, “Most people would be happy to lose an argument, as long as they have a chance to debate.”

McAleese, who is currently serving as the Burns Library Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies at Boston College, published a book last year with Columba Press. Her work “Quo Vadis? Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law,” examines how Vatican II’s reforms on power sharing between bishops and the pope have been sidetracked or unimplemented. She spoke about her book at the College of the Holy Cross on Tuesday, October 29, 2013.

Although McAleese recognizes that history shows it takes about 50 years for council reforms to be fully practiced, she hopes to see several power sharing changes during Francis’ papacy. “Pope Francis has spoken on the issue of collegiality, but it’s too early in his papacy to rush to judgement.” She continued, “At this point, we have to take a wait and see attitude. We hear that he’s a good cook. Now, we have to wait for the dinner.”