|As a commenter on this blog, Agni Ashwi points out on the linked NCR article, female cardinals do not have the fire engine red in your face plumage of their male counterparts. Perhaps there is a message here.|
The idea of Pope Francis appointing female cardinals seems to be picking up steam. David Gibson writes of this possibility in a Religion News Service article posted at NCR. Like many others who have written on this idea, Gibson glosses over the Canonical requirements that state a Cardinal must be an ordained priest and hold or be elevated to the rank of bishop. There hasn't been a lay man promoted to this rank since 1858, previous to the changes in Canon Law of 1917. Gibson mentions Jaques Maritain, a lay philosopher, was tapped by Paul VI, and refused the position, but doesn't clarify if Maritain would have had to undergo ordination in order to accept the honor. This is something of a major oversight in my opinion. He also writes that a number of people have said JPII asked Mother Theresa and she refused. I put in that in the category of 'not particularly believable'--at least in the sense that the offer was made seriously and not in jest. The following is an excerpt from Gibson's article:
Could a woman vote for the next pope?
Pope Francis has said repeatedly he wants to see greater roles for women in the Catholic church, and some argue he could take a giant step in that direction by appointing women to the College of Cardinals -- the select and (so far) all-male club of "princes of the church" that casts secret ballots in a conclave to elect a new pope.
Whether it's even possible is a matter of debate. But that hasn't stopped the feverish speculation, which was sparked last month by an article in a Spanish newspaper in which Juan Arias, a former priest who writes from Brazil, wrote that the idea "is not a joke. It's something that Pope Francis has thought about before: naming a woman cardinal."
Arias quoted an unnamed priest -- a Jesuit, like Francis -- who said: "Knowing this pope, he wouldn't hesitate before appointing a woman cardinal. ... And he would indeed enjoy being the first pope to allow women to participate in the selection of a new pontiff."
That was enough to start the ball rolling. The report was quickly picked up by Catholic media in Italy and then raced around a church that, in the months since Francis' election, has been primed to expect the unexpected from this pope......
It wouldn't surprise me if Pope Francis was considering such a move. I just have questions as to what he would expect to accomplish with it. First, Francis' stated desire is to enhance lay involvement in running the Church and so I would expect both genders of laity to be considered for such an appointment, otherwise it's just more gender discrimination. Second, this would have the effect of setting back women's true equality since it would give perhaps a hand full of women a token say in the election of any future pope. It would be a form of tokenism whose enactment would effectively keep women from ordination by giving a very few women another form of authority. I just happen to think this idea doesn't do much to solve some serious problems, but some dedicated and smart people are really getting behind it. Dr Phyllis Zagano left the following comment after the linked article.
"The main obstacle now appears to be the requirement that a cardinal must be ordained. Yet that could be resolved by allowing women to be deacons, a level of ordination just below the priesthood. The idea of opening the diaconate to women has been gaining currency in recent years and has emerged as a possible path to the conclave for laypeople and specifically for woman."
You can have lay cardinals. More likely, cardinal-deacons (including women), who would be clerics, not laypeople."
Her comment, unfortunately, wreaks of clericalism and I am not a fan of clericalism. I freely admit that is why I do not get on board with the women's ordination movement, or the diaconate for women, or women as cardinals. I am not interested in the Vatican "allowing women to be deacons" even if it is "a level of ordination just below the priesthood". Nor does it stroke my ego that such an appointment would be have to be "More likely, cardinal-deacons (including women), who would be clerics, not laypeople." The truth is I wish smart women like Dr Zagano would spend their time debunking the teachings that there is any Gospel evidence that Jesus ordained anyone or that our current clerical caste is anything more than an invented construct designed to enhance clerical power. Why waste time poring over St Paul to justify a female diaconate when it would be more useful to spend that same time asking whether Paul's letters justify any kind of institutionally ordained priesthood in any form. Seems to me that all Paul's letters prove is that his communities called forth their own leadership, and did that without his prior approval for such appointments.
I am not naive enough to think that Pope Francis will dismantle the entire clerical structure as he himself is way too invested in it and it's perks. After all he played the game well enough to be elevated to Pope. And yet, I also don't think any tinkering he does with Cardinals or the diaconate or seminaries or accountability for bishops or any other action that essentially serves to preserve the clerical system is going to stop what's coming. There are not nearly enough priests, especially in Latin America, Africa, and the Orient to provide the Eucharist that makes Catholicism what it purports to be--a sacramental church. Much sooner than later the people will decide the other six sacraments are more important than the one, and at that point, plumage of any color won't matter any longer and neither will token reforms for women.