Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese has accused Pope Francis of "misogynistic drivel" after he claimed that women were not being deprived by not having the right to become priests.
Pope Francis said in a recent interview with the Jesuit publication, America magazine, that women cannot enter ordained ministry because the church's "Petrine principle has no place for that".
"That the woman does not enter into the ministerial life is not a deprivation. No. Your place is that which is much more important and which we have yet to develop, the catechesis about women in the way of the Marian principle," Pope Francis said in the interview, which was conducted in the Vatican last month.
In a short email addressed to the Pope, Former Irish president Mary McAleese blasted Pope Francis for his "ludicrous lack of knowledge or clarity", adding that he "offered just more unlikely misogynistic drivel".
"It was reassuring and gratifying to observe the utter impenetrability of the reasons you offered," McAleese said in the email.
"So nothing new then and nothing to fear," she continued. "Thank you for giving us something to laugh at. If you ever come up with a serious and credible reason please do not hesitate to let us know. Meanwhile, keep rambling on. It is such fun and the fun has almost gone out of faith! Best wishes and renewed thanks. Mary McAleese."
Pope Francis said during the interview that it would be a "theological problem" if a woman felt a call to become an ordained minister, stating that "we amputate the being of the church if we consider only the way of the ministerial dimension".
He said there are three principles in the Catholic Church; the Petrine (from Peter) principle, which is that of ordained ministry; the Marian principle, which is the principle of women in the church; and the administrative principle.
He admitted that the church has to "give more space" to women in the administrative aspect of the church, adding that the places in the Vatican "where we have put women are functioning better".
Speaking further about the Petrine principle, Pope Francis said the church "cannot function only with that one".
The Pope also referred to his 2018 visit to Ireland after he was questioned about abuse in the church during the interview.
"The church takes responsibility for its own sin, and we go forward, sinners, trusting in the mercy of God. When I travel, I generally receive a delegation of victims of abuse," Pope Francis said.
"When I was in Ireland, people who had been abused asked for an audience. There were six or seven of them. At the beginning, they were a little angry, and they were right.
"I said to them: `Look, let us do something. Tomorrow, I have to give a homily; why don’t we prepare it together, about this problem?’ And that gave rise to a beautiful phenomenon because what had started as a protest was transformed into something positive and, together, we all created the homily for the next day."
Pope Francis said his audience with abuse victims in Ireland was one of the most heated situations he has ever had to face.