International Women’s Day event organizers move Rome confernce and book McAleese as keynote speaker, finding “barring” women’s voices “unacceptable”.

The former president of Ireland Mary McAleese has been barred by the Vatican from taking part in a conference to mark International Women’s Day due to her views on gay rights and the Catholic Church’s history of abuse.

The most powerful Irishman in Rome, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, declined to give permission to McAleese and two others, to speak at the 2018 Voices Of Faith women’s rights conference, which was to be held inside the Vatican, in Rome. The conference with the theme “Why Women Matter”, on March 8, has now been moved and will take place outside the Holy See, at the Jesuit Aula, also in Rome. McAleese is now listed as the keynote speaker.

The conference theme “Why Women Matter” aims to convince the Vatican that women “have the expertise, skills and gifts to play a full leadership role in the church”.

The dome of St. Peter's in the Vatican, in Rome.

The dome of St. Peter's in the Vatican, in Rome.

The other two speakers who denied permission were Polish theologian Zuzanna Radzik and Ssenfuka Joanita Warry, a lesbian Catholic who is pioneering LGBT rights in Uganda.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that the reason former president McAleese was denied permission to speak on a panel discussion in the Vatican was due to her “views on gay rights”. Her son, Justin, who is gay was a devout young Catholic and was bullied in school because he was gay. She said Justin went through "torture" when he discovered what his Church taught about homosexuality.

McAleese is also currently pursuing a Doctorate in Canon Law at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University. She began her studies due to her dismay at how the sexual abuse revelations within the Catholic Church were handled.

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Mary McAleese and her husband Martin.

Mary McAleese and her husband Martin.

Chantal Götz, managing director of Voices of Faith, said this is the first time, since the group began organizing such events in 2014, that the Vatican has withheld approval to any speakers.

Ireland’s former president declined to comment but said she had sent a letter to Pope Francis on the matter and was awaiting his reply. The Pope has also been invited to the International Women’s Day event.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who refused McAleese permission is the prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. The Dubliner spent most of his clerical life in the United States and is now widely thought to be the most powerful Irishman in the Vatican.

Farrell is also coordinating efforts around the World Meeting of Families 2018 in Dublin next August, which will include a visit to Ireland by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell.

Speaking on the Farrell’s refusal Götz, the managing director of Voices of Faith, said that rather than exclude the three women “we decided ourselves to move the conference to a venue outside the Vatican”.

Götz, a lawyer, based in Liechtenstein, said Farrell’s failure to respond to her efforts of dialogue and “barring” women’s voices was “unacceptable”. She also attempted to get Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to intervene, but to no avail.

"We realized that it is crucial for us to bring voices that represent perspectives often not heard at the Vatican," Götz told the Belfast Telegraph.

She added that as the group is not linked to the Vatican “ultimately, we did not see a reason why these women should have to go through an 'approval process' by anyone.”

A Vatican spokesman, told the Belfast Telegraph, the event was "not a Vatican conference" and suggested questions should be directed to the organizers.

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You can watch a live stream of the 2018 Voices of Faith event here.

H/T: Irish Times.