Could Pope Francis make women cardinals?

An article in the latest National Catholic Reporter asks if Pope Francis could make women cardinals, suggesting that the idea is ‘a pipe dream and an opening’ (you can read the original article by David Gibson here).

We know there have been lay men appointed cardinals in the past – the last one died in 1899. The article mentions that Jacques Maritain and Mother Teresa were both invited by popes to become cardinals, but both declined.

There is at present a limit of 120 for the number of cardinals to elect a Pope. This number has a biblical significance, perhaps most of all where we read in Acts 1:15: “In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd  numbered about 120 persons) and said . . .

Perhaps an important question is: Would we want women or lay men to be appointed cardinals in the current structures with all the power play etc? Should Pope Francis insist that the system be reformed first? Or should the appointments be made, trusting that the new appointees would not just fall in with the system, but would rather assist in the reform? Is it a chicken and egg situation?

Alternatively, should the college of cardinals be abolished altogether, and a new system of electing Popes be developed?

How would you advise Pope Francis?

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  1. As the article points out…..the woman would still have to be ordained to be cardinal….so….I say….name a woman as pope…canon law…does not require the pope to be ordained…

  2. Mary Wood says:

    I doubt if any self-respecting woman would want to become a cardinal among that crowd as constituted.
    At the Al Smith dinner in NYC the invited comedy speaker Stephen Colbert in his “iece” said to Cardinal Dolan: “In that cape and red sash, you look like a matador who’s really let himself go.”

  3. Mary O Vallely says:

    Well, I would suggest that he read Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s ‘Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church’ for a start. Better still, arrange to chat with him and others. Have a discussion. Listen to people. I like GR’s proposal of having patriarch presidents based on the Eastern patriarchs. These would be elected by the bishops with no necessity for the person to be elected for life. It goes without saying that, of course, women could be elected as Cardinals. The most important quality of any church person is having a real ability to relate to people. Pope Francis appears to have that quality in abundance and look at the impact he is making! If only we could get beyond the gender obstacle and the theologically safe churchman model we could actually begin to model this church on Christ-like qualities.
    ‘Read the book. Discuss it with others. Listen. Reflect. Is the present system working? Could some of these ideas be adopted or adapted for use?’ That’s what I’d say to the Pope and I’d say it with much respect and a large smile and give him a hug too. 🙂

  4. Joe O'Leary says:

    If he can abolish Monsignors he can make women Cardinals. The requirement of priestly or episcopal ordination is recent canon law and can easily be reversed. Naturally, it would be uncomfortable for the first batch of Princesses of the Church, but could become quite normal in time.

  5. Many of the practices of the catholic Church are merely cultural but many Catholics regard them as essential. Appointing a woman as cardinal would be a very visible signal that mindsets need to change and would begin a process of change in peoples’ minds. But it would have to be followed up with many more changes.

  6. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Darlene@1, if only it was so unproblematic I’d vote for you myself. In fact we could all of us club together and vote you in by acclamation, sort of like the Milanesi with Ambrose. All together now: “LET DARLENE BE POPE!”
    But Canon Law has precious little to say about electing a pope, or about who’d be qualified for election, or what the minimum age might be. It’s almost as if they’re leaving it all up to the Goddesses Tyche and Fortuna or (Perish the thought!) the Holy Spirit. Go back a thousand years or so: a teenager becomes pope, not once but three times after two “recalls”. A couple of centuries later: a pope makes his nephew a cardinal at 13 who becomes his next successor but one at 37.
    Unfortunately, the Code of Canon Law is only the framework for Special Law which every pope feels he must contribute to. So, I’m afraid it doesn’t matter how loudly we yell, “Let Darlene be Pope!”, Benedict or even Francis will quickly point us towards the about to be sainted John Paul’s Motu Proprio ‘Universi Dominici Gregis’ 1996 (re-tweaked, and perhaps even declared definitively retro-infallible,by Benedict in 2007 and again a week before he stepped down in February 2013):
    #Intro: “I have thus considered it fitting NOT to retain election by acclamation ‘quasi ex inspiratione’ . . .” [Sorry, Darlene, but we did try!]
    #88 “If the person elected (Pope) is not already a Bishop, he shall immediately be ordained Bishop.”
    #89 “If the person elected is not already a Bishop, homage is paid to him and the announcement of his election is made only after he has been solemnly ordained Bishop.”
    So, once you’ve slalomed your way around all those “he/him/his” barriers, you’ll get at most one minute as Pope before they grab you to ordain you Priest/Bishop of Rome. Then they just might let you out on the balcony for your ‘Habemus Papam / Mamam’ moment.
    But fear not! We’ll all be down there on the piazza yelling, “SANTA SUBITO!”

  7. Eddie Finnegan says:

    My apologies to the late Pope John Paul II. I inadvertently downgraded his Apostolic Constitution to ‘Motu Proprio’ status. Pope Benedict’s 2007 and 2013 tweakings of UDG were indeed ‘Motu Proprio’s.

  8. Well, on this Feast Day of JP2 and it’s already the 23rd of October for you….I am grateful for your vote Eddie! I predict that far into the future…there will be no cardinals…afterall…the cardinals and the bishops come from that ecclesiastical secretarial pool of priests and the pool is shrinking….so, I am recommending that the Americas, Asia, Africa, and so on,form a Catholic Union…and that each area is responsible for their own Church…so that, in Rome…there may well be still a pontiff…but, few if any pontifical offices…except for the representative or representatives, plural from the different unions…This requires a major revision of many aspects…but, certainly a major revision of Canon Law…

    Oh, well….so much work…and so few people…I have a regret though…I look good in red…

  9. Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, must have overspent his budget. If he had only spent thirty million would he have been sanctioned I wonder?

  10. Mark @9 What about this perspective on it: “The labourer is worthy of his hire”. In other words, living in a certain affluent context, of Germany and Europe generally, naturally he lives with the same style as his compatriots and the rest of us- which is, by the standards of most of the world, very well! I`d be more impressed by the critics of bishop Tebartz-van Elst, if they showed the same sense of moral repugnance to the scandal of our national wealth and the poverty it condemns others to, a scandal which dwarfs the bad example of any single individual.
    Is there a similar hue and cry among those truffling for scandals in the Church about an analogous case- the scandalous excess, by world standards, and therefore an unmerited and unjust inequality, we in Ireland enjoy? In fact aren`t people here, both electors and politicians, far from learning to adjust and to live more frugally and simply and within our means in a world of diminishing resources and increasing population, still crying out for more riches and consequently willing to inflict more deprivation on others than ever?

  11. Should the German Bishop be excommunicated?……Probably.not..that punishment is restricted to those who speak about women being ordained…which must be a far more serious infraction of Church law…and Church praxis…

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