Pope Francis is holding women back due to misogyny, former president Mary McAleese has claimed.

She has called for a seachange in the attitude to women by Francis and leading clerics.

“There is a blindness here that comes from a kind of a priestly formation that leaves so many good, decent, gentlemanly men like Francis still carrying an element, a residual element, of misogyny that closes them off to the dangers of not dealing with these issues,” McAleese told RTÉ.

“I think that’s where there’s a problem with Francis, I don’t think that he gets it. Still. He’s very gentlemanly, he’s a lovely person, everybody likes him and women like him. We love his smile, we love his openness, we love his accessibility, we love his frankness, we love the ease of him. But we also know that that’s not enough.”

She called for women’s views to be heard far more.“I’m talking about an altogether different phenomenon and that is the structure of a universal Church that comprises 1.2bn people, half of whom are women, and who do not have appropriate vehicles at parish, diocesan or universal level that fully respect the role they play in the Church or could play in the Church,” McAleese said.

She has also called for honesty about gay priests and gay issues in general. A very large number” of Catholic priests are gay and the Church is in denial about the fact. “It isn’t so much the elephant in the room but a herd of elephants,” she said.

“I don’t like my Church’s attitude to gay people. I don’t like ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that? We also know that within the priesthood a very large number of priests are gay. Things written by Pope Benedict, for example, were completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding, and to the understanding of most Catholics nowadays in relation to homosexuality.

“Nowadays, it is not something that is perceived as something that is intrinsically disordered. Homosexual conduct is not seen as evil.”

Outspoken remarks by former president Mary McAleese on Catholic Church's attitudes to women, gays.Google Images