File photo shows a 2012 synod of bishops attended by Pope Emeritus Benedict (picture: CathNews USA)
Mary McAleese has described the Pope's plan to canvass bishops' opinions on family life as "bonkers".
Ms McAleese, a two-term President of Ireland, strongly questioned Pope Francis calling a synod to review the Catholic Church's teaching on family life.
She won the backing of the Association of Catholic Priests with some of her comments, which demanded a "new theology of women" instead of an "old boys club".
She said there was "just something profoundly wrong and skewed" about asking clergy for their views when they were all "male celibates".
And the mother-of-three questioned how many people who would be taking part in the gathering had ever changed a baby's nappy.
A world synod of bishops to discuss family life, and whether the church should revise its teachings on the subject, is due to be held in Rome this October.
Ms McAleese questioned the idea of people "who have decided they are not going to have any children, not going to have families, not going to be fathers and not going to be spouses" discussing the matter.
"It is completely bonkers," she said at a public interview following her receipt of UCD's famous Ulysses medal on Bloomsday.
The Vatican has already circulated a questionnaire and a working paper written by the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will be released before the end of the month.
In the interview with Professor Conor Gearty of the London School of Economics, Ms McAleese (62) said: "I've got a much simpler questionnaire and it's only got one question.
"How many of the men who will gather to advise you as pope on the family have ever changed a baby's nappy? I regard that as a very, very serious question."
The Association of Catholic Priests last night said that they believe women should have a "huge involvement" in Pope Francis' upcoming discussion. Fr Sean McDonagh, a spokesperson for the organisation, said that he believes "women should be included" in October's discussion, and that it "it doesn't make sense" for them to be excluded.