A cardinal says he’s open to women’s ordination; a priest who did so remains suspended

One of world’s most influential cardinals recently admitted that he is “open” to the idea of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood.

“I am not saying that women have to become priests; I just don’t know. But I’m open to it,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ in an interview published September 13 on the website of KNA, the German Catholic news agency.

Hollerich is a high-profile cardinal with international stature due to his position as president of the Commission of the Episcopal Conferences of the European Union (COMECE). He’s also archbishop of his native Luxembourg.

So his views matter.

But just a few days after he commented on women priests, Tony Flannery – the Irish Redemptorist who was suspended from priestly ministry in 2012, primarily for his support of women’s ordination – revealed that the Vatican had sent him a series of doctrinal proposals in July (via his superior general) to which he would have to “submit” as a first step towards “a gradual readmission” to public ministry.

One wonders if the men at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) are going to press Pope Francis to have Cardinal Hollerich recant and force him to sign a fidelity oath similar to the one placed before Father Flannery.



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  1. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Maybe all that’s missing in Cardinal Hollerich’s case is a couple of Irish ‘delatores’ or touts, lay and/or clerical, to push the CDF into action?

  2. Sean O’Conaill says:

    Let’s spare a thought though, Eddie, for the lifeguards on Mars, the jobsworths of the CDF who must daily be wondering who it is they are saving, and from what.

    Poor Benedict’s concern for those who might be misled by ‘powerful intellectuals’ – isn’t that the rationale for the continuing existence of the CDF?

    Never mind that Irish Catholic faith has been most powerfully challenged by bishops who mismanaged clerical abuse of children and did no management whatever of 20th century residential institutions for children and luckless women – matters totally invisible to the same CDF – and the sheer lunacy of supposing that any of those who would want to cancel their baptisms in Ireland today would want to list Tony Flannery’s opinions on anything as a justification for that.

    What’s left of the faithful have been made totally immune to ‘powerful intellectuals’ by the witlessness and vindictiveness of the most paranoid – trapped forever in cappa magnas, self-importance and an inability to think about anything other than sex.

    While the Internet blizzard of lay popery has proven that in the end it is not opinion or authoritarianism that form faith, but the very scarce virtues of simplicity, integrity, generosity, and service in the name of the Lord.

    And prayer in the midst of danger proves the truth of the simpler Creed – and the ever-presence of the one who is the way, the truth and the life.

    Since the same Lord is also truly judge of the living, what justice or purpose is served by the surviving strainers at gnats – the lifeguards on Mars? Who would want that daily futile grind? Those prisoners who once sewed mailbags had far more job satisfaction.

  3. Mary Vallely says:

    A very moving quote from the ‘ amazing’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died today:

    “I pray that I may be all that my mother would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve and daughters are cherished as much as sons.”

    It fills me with sadness and anger when I reflect on how women in the Catholic Church are still regarded, as lesser beings, simply by virtue of their physicality. It is the one great institution which forbids their full participation in governance and forbids its ordained ministers from daring to even SPEAK about the possibility of change regarding the status of women!

    Then I remember this quote of Ruth’s:

    “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

    So we must plough on, continuing to raise awareness of injustices and to hope and pray that more of those with influence can be persuaded to listen to the voice of the Spirit within; that Spirit whose patience must be sorely tried at how slow most of the ordained are to realise that we are all equal in the sight of God, that neither gender nor ethnicity matters not one jot. (I think I read that in a famous book once upon a time…)

  4. william o'brien says:

    There is a wonderful story about Cardinal Dulles and a discussion of the idea of a priest who undergoes a sex change to become a woman. The question raised was “would the person still be a priest?” and after a lengthy discussion it was decided that no the person would no longer be a priest. to which the Cardinal responded, “now we know where the charism resides.”

  5. Soline Humbert says:

    «Now we know where the charism resides»
    I once asked a bishop what was missing in a woman that she can’t be ordained (allegedly). His blushing and his embarrassed silence said it all.

  6. Joe O'Leary says:

    The version I heard, when an Italian priest who had changed sex was de-ordained, about 35 years ago, was “well, now we know where the famous character indelebilis is located!”

    It’s interesting that in the quote from Querida Amazonia 101 on the Tony Flannery thread it’s no longer because Christ was a man that priests should be men; it’s because Christ is divine, “his divine Son made man” (hombre, human not varón, male, and thus irrelevant to the gender of ministers) whereas God also shows himself in “a creature who is a woman, Mary” who exemplifies “the force and tenderness of a mother.”

    “Jesus is a man, so priests, who represent him, should be men” is a sort of argument, though a feeble one.

    “Jesus is divine, though also human, so priests are better fit to represent him because his mother is not divine” is meaningless.

    Basically the Vatican have refused dialogue and argument on this issue, and indeed have forbidden them. The result is inevitably an increasing decrepitude in its own monological manipulation of sophistical arguments. Indeed the lack of connection with rationality and the manipulation of slogans and talking points instead reminds one of nothing so much as of a Trump rally.

  7. Seamus Ahearne says:

    Soline: Penile dementia. It has to be.

  8. Sean O’Conaill says:

    #7 Due to lifelong penile servitude?

  9. Eddie Finnegan says:

    I’m surprised that by now nobody has reminded us that, in the case of a candidate born without the priestly charism or character indelebilis potential, or who has carelessly mislaid it in the course of transition or sexual reassignment, of course Sancta Mater Ecclesia supplet.
    Fr Ted Crilly, Dave Allen, Voltaire – where are you all now that we need you?

  10. Joe O'Leary says:

    Oh, I misrepresented the Vatican argument. It should go: “Jesus is divine, though also human, so *men* are better fit to represent him because his mother is not divine.” I don’t think it’s possible to develop the argument any further, since it is predicated on an arrested position, withdrawn from discussion. Attempting to develop it beyond mere assertion only results in futile abstruseness (maybe attempting to lace it with the odd Vatican versions of anthropology, or a dollop of “Theology of the Body). It’s all rather embarrassing.

  11. George Lynch says:

    It’s a pity that instead of serious discussion of a serious topic the old male / clerical tactic of using dubious humour is being employed to stifle debate. How redolent of so many clerical ‘discussions’.
    I suppose boys will be boys.

  12. Sean O’Conaill says:

    #9. An ecumenical question, surely?

  13. Joe O'Leary says:

    It is indeed an ecumenical question, Sean, and one that the Vatican should be opening up rather than shutting down. The Vatican has much to learn from the Anglican and Lutheran and Calvinist communities who have thrived on the ministry of women. What is the use of ecumenism when one pulls down the hatches as soon as another church is more liberal on some issue than one’s own. The homophobic and misogynistic hang-ups of the Vatican (the same that underlie their behaviour with Tony Flannery and the late Sean Fagan) have wrought havoc with ecumenism, undermining one of the key projects of Vatican II. We have a wonderful Anglican priest here in Tokyo, Canon Kate Cullinane, born in Bantry as a Roman Catholic. Her diligent ministry in the pandemic months would be a lesson in zeal, practicality, and imagination to most priests. Pope Francis has repeated the dogmatic shut-down of his two immediate predecessors and it is greatly laming his discourse and his effectiveness.

  14. Liamy MacNally says:

    Text of an online homily preached last Sunday by Soline Humbert.

    Homily preached on the 20th of September 2020 at the Women’s Ordination Worldwide Liturgy

    I dedicate this homily with gratitude to the memory of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church, who wrote: “How much I would have wanted to be a priest so that I could preach on the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

    Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

    ”I allow no woman to teach or to have authority over men. Let them be quiet.” (1 Tim 3:11-12)
    Whoever wrote these lines (attributed to St Paul) had obviously not heard Mary singing her Magnificat at the top of her voice! The Evangelist Luke is not giving us a quiet, submissive Mary.
    She is not singing softly a lullaby to lull us to sleep. Here Mary is a prophet issuing a wake up call, loudly proclaiming a revolution. Mary is not rocking a cradle, she is rocking the world. She will not be silenced. She is a woman possessed: possessed by the Divine Breath, the Holy Spirit.

    The Magnificat is a song of praise, of thanksgiving and a profession of faith. It exudes joy, power and hope. Mary is filled to overflowing. A new wineskin for the New Wine. The words surge onto her lips. Two thousand years on and they still flow on like a great river. They are both our inheritance and our mission.

    Mary tells us: This is who God is, and this is what God has done, is doing and will do. The God of Mary is not a distant detached God endorsing from afar the unjust status quo. No, the God of Mary of Nazareth is a God intimately involved in the world and whose action is truly subversive.

    But let’s be clear: Mary is not proclaiming a bloody, violent revolution where places are merely reversed and nothing really has changed. The same dynamic of competition, envy, greed, powerplay and domination remains untouched. Mary’s Magnificat is far more radical: It heralds a total transformation of relationships through justice and mercy. This is what the reign of God, the reign of Love looks like.

    The Magnificat tells us that the world is in the process of being re-made, re-created, re -ordered. Distorted relationships are giving way to relations of equality, mutuality and solidarity.

    Mary is a visionary. She sees beneath the appearances. She sees a different reality than what meets the eye. She sees the Spirit at work in the foundations of life, bringing to birth justice, peace and love.

    This is the Good News.
    When, under the impulse of the Spirit, we join Mary in our Yes to God we open a passageway for new life to flow in us and through us. That life bears fruit, lasting fruit. New forms emerge, the impossible becomes reality.

    Mary is solidly rooted, anchored in her people, she is mindful of her ancestors. She remembers the past but she is not locked in it. She remembers God ‘s promises, God’s faithfulness. Her experience of the strength of that bond, of that covenant is the basis for her trust. She knows, intimately, that God is Emmanuel, God with us and for us. Because God is faithful there is hope and there is a future. The God of promise is the God of fulfilment.

    Mary exults. She jubilates with God’s own joy. Her jubilation is both mystical and prophetic, intimate and cosmic. That joy is truly expansive and explosive. It opens up spaces, unlocks doors, disrupts, goes beyond imposed limitations.
    Can we too make space in our hearts for that divine rejoicing? A rejoicing not because we are smug and things are going well in our little bubble and we are indifferent to the immense suffering in our world, but a rejoicing because God is God. That is a truly revolutionary joy.

    In a church where unjust, unequal power relationships have been sacralised, especially on grounds of gender, Mary’s Magnificat is a call to look again. These structures, these teachings, these roles, these stereotypes, these exclusions are the products of a distorted image of God which has prevailed through millennia. The gender apartheid in our church is no more godly than the racial apartheid was in South Africa, and truly no less a scandal. A scandal in the biblical sense, an obstacle to the Gospel. Mary ‘s Magnificat exposes it for what it is: not the good fruit of God ‘s will and action, but the rotten fruit of sexism and misogyny.

    As I prepared these reflections, some of the glaring absurdity in our present ecclesial practices came to mind: Mary’s Magnificat is from the Gospel, meaning that at Mass when it is read it has to be by a male priest or a male deacon. Today Mary wouldn’t be allowed to proclaim her Magnificat in our churches …but she would have to hand it over to be delivered through male, ordained, lips! And as for preaching on it, she would also be considered unfit because of her gender.

    What have we done with the God of Mary’s Magnificat? Turned into a male idol to give some men power over women in the guise of divine male authority.

    Mary of Nazareth proclaimed the gestating Christ with authority. Mary of Magdala proclaimed the same Christ now risen with authority. Their yes to God the source of their authority, not male permission and approval. Free women, empowered and empowering women. Women alive and on fire.

    Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church, whose prayer was read earlier, was another such prophetic, visionary woman. She too refused to keep quiet. She had things to tell, Good News to proclaim. Her God, Lady Wisdom, is at work and at play in all of creation. Hildegard reminds us that we are an integral part of that web of life, sustained by the one Spirit of love. She too rejoices in the marvellous work of creation and re-creation, calling us to just relationships with all creatures.

    When she prays ”Make us into waving fronds so that we may dance before you in joy,” I visualize Mary dancing her Magnificat. Will we let ourselves join in that divine dance, that dance of freedom and joyful hope?

    Together with Mary and Hildegard, Elizabeth and Mary of Magdala, and countless witnesses, women and men, we affirm.
    With You among us, we are holy people.
    Within your embrace the land is holy.
    All created things live your praise.
    We hear, we see, we are in awe
    And we give thanks.

    Soline Humbert (Vatinel)

  15. Ned Quinn says:


    A thousand AMENS!

  16. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Soline, magnificent!

    Just as you were preaching that homily on Sunday, Archbishop Eamon Martin was in Cavan ordaining Martin Hayes as Bishop of Kilmore. In his homily, among other things he said: “As bishops we need to find new ways of harnessing the tremendous gifts and charisms of our lay faithful…..We bishops are called to be like a loving father, helping our people and priests to discover their personal vocation from God and be able to contribute their gifts to the growth of the Church.”
    He had also just announced a Family Rosary Crusade (a sort of jihad, I suppose) against Covid for October. Now if you had only sent him a copy of your Magnificat homily in advance, his homily on Rosary and personal vocation and pandemic experience and bishops’ duties might have been more coherent, and Bishop Hayes might have had a much more inspiring ‘takeaway’ for his future in Kilmore. Not, mind you, that Bishops of Kilmore who listen to their people find a listening ear among their fellow bishops when they deliver their message. A bit like being an Amazonian bishop, I guess.

  17. Soline Humbert says:

    #15 and 16
    Thank you very much Ned and Eddie.
    Eddie,with reference to that homily by Eamon Martin, what puzzled me most was the headlined sentence «SYNODAL PROCESS: The Irish Bishops Conference is committed to a ground up synodal process for new evangelisation and for revitalising the church in Ireland.»
    Unfortunately there is no further elaboration in the homily, or anywhere on the Bishops Conference’s website. What concrete shape is that episcopal commitment to a ground up synodal process taking? Does anyone on the ground know?

  18. Eddie Finnegan says:

    I see Archbishop Eamon Martin and Bishop Noel Treanor joined Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich and seventeen other EU Bishops’ Conference presidents this afternoon for a COMECE-EU Zoom-in. Any chance that our men will catch the Hollerich virus ?

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