A bishop has said God chose men - not women - to be priests, following recent submissions from dioceses around the country for women to be admitted into the priesthood.
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore also stated his belief on Monday that allowing women to become priests would not be a 'quickfix solution' to the Church's current recruitment crisis.
The bishop conceded that the numbers studying for the priesthood are 'very much less' than previously, with the number of new priests dwarfed by the number of retirees.
'We are certainly faced with a problem,' he told The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk on Monday.
'We all know that but vocations to marriages, vocations to any lifelong commitment in modern society is something which is decreasing - there's no doubt about that. We all know the problems, what we are proposing is: let's look at the solutions.'
Bishop Cullinan said women are 'essential' to the Church, but that the priesthood was something that should stay off limits to them. 'In the Church of England, the ordination of women hasn't been a quick-fix solution to the number of vocations,' he said.
'In actual fact, they're going down. So, we can learn from that. It is something that God has - out of God's wisdom - chosen for the Church, men for this particular role, and there are all sorts of roles... for women.
'But the specific issue of the priesthood is something that, following Jesus in this particular way, and taking the risk for Christ, that he is calling, and who am I to stand and say, "Lord, I think you're wrong".'
Bishop Cullinan was also sceptical about whether a married man could do justice to the role.
'Does he give his heart to the parishioners or to his wife and family?' he said.
'And it's always a dichotomy there and I think, for me and the happy priests that I know, they are free to give themselves fully for their ministry in their parishes, in their chaplaincy, wherever it is.
'I worked for five years as a hospital chaplain and I do not see how I could have done that job if I were married because in the hospital it was full-on - especially the night calls.'
Earlier this year, the Irish delegation from the Catholic
Church in Ireland told an international conference that the Church must become more inclusive of women, those in LGBTQ relationships or second marriages, single parents, migrants and refugees.
They said the Church must take on board that many women feel excluded and discriminated against, and that they want the option to become priests and deacons. The Continental Synod was considering how the Church can be remodelled to reflect modern life, and to survive with a dwindling number of priests.
In a joint statement, the delegates said: 'Many women communicated their pain at being denied their agency in the life of the Church and spoke of feelings of exclusion and discrimination.
'Women play a critical role in the life of the Church but so many men and women have spoken of the Church 'excluding' the fullness of the gifts of women. Many submissions during the Diocesan phase called for women to be admitted to the diaconate and priesthood.'
Fr Patsy Lynch, of Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry, said he believed Bishop Cullinan was 'trying to rewind the clock' on the issue of women priests. He said: 'We have moved beyond that. That is like trying to rewind the clock and turn time back. God is both male and female, as I see it. It's not that we need more priests, we need the laity to be actively involved and we need to show leadership there.'
Asked about the Church's thinking on women priests, he said: '[Pope Francis] is a breath of fresh air but his hands might be held behind his back.'
Galway priest Fr Diarmuid Hogan said he believed the future of the Church did not lie with ordaining more men or women, but in allowing parishioners a greater role in the running of their own Church. 'There has been in the past an exclusiveness to the priesthood, which has caused many people to feel hurt and excluded. That certainly has to be addressed and taken on,' he said.
'Exclusiveness and exclusion have not served the Church well.'
He said the people of the Church - the fathers, wives, sons and daughters - shouldn't be excluded from positions of authority, but should be empowered to take such positions, 'rather than putting more people in collars'.
The bishop's words came as Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of All Ireland, said he hoped more young people would consider joining the priesthood.
Speaking at the ordination in Armagh of Father Carlos Esteban Rojo, he said: 'I hope and pray that some of our young school leavers will be open to hearing God's call to priesthood and the religious life.'