Pensioner Gets Hate Mail over Mass Boycott

By Ralph Riegel
Irish Independent
September 18, 2010

A PENSIONER who is organising a one-day Mass boycott to protest at the Catholic Church's treatment of women has received hate mail.

Jennifer Sleeman (80), from Clonakilty, Co Cork, also says groups in the US, Canada and Australia are joining her boycott with special events.

The US lobby group, Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW), has also backed her protest for September 26.

Ms Sleeman said she had received some "nasty letters" since going public with her Mass boycott plan last month.

"I put them in a folder marked 'hate mail' but there are only three letters.

"I have received so many other letters and phone calls from people who understand and support what I am trying to do," she said.

Ms Sleeman added that a lot of the women who contacted her supported her position but did not want to miss their daily Mass attendance.

"I go to Mass regularly myself so I totally understand their position," she explained.

Now a range of alternatives are being discussed whereby people who don't feel they can support the one-day Mass boycott can still demonstrate their support for demands that the church reforms itself and offers women a greater involvement in church affairs.

"One option is that people write a note in support of women or women priests and drop it in the collection plate on September 26. Another suggestion is that people wear a green armband on the day -- though I don't know where that idea came from," Ms Sleeman said.

The pensioner said she still hadn't decided what she would do herself on September 26.

She initially wasn't certain what response her protest call would attract when she went public in the media in early August.

However, Ms Sleeman -- who converted to Catholicism from Presbyterianism -- has been deluged with messages of support from Ireland and overseas.

"It has all been a bit overwhelming," she said.

She added that the church had effectively been treating women as second-class citizens for decades.


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