Cdl. Dolan and Fr. Benedict Groeschel Affirm Me in My Okayness!

For 15ish years, ever since the publication of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, I have maintained that one implication of the document is that women can be created cardinals of the Church (since the office of cardinal does not require holy orders and it is *only* the sacerdotal office to which the Church lacks the authority to ordain women). When I say this, I invariably get chewed out as a subversive modernist.

However, the other day, Fr. Groeschel and Cdl Dolan noted exactly the same thing (go to the 3:50 mark):

I suspect we will see something like this in my lifetime. If not, in my children’s or grand-daughter’s lifetime. Should it happen, do not freak out that the Church is “abandoning the Tradition”. Cardinals are a bit of bureaucratic machinery for taking care of housekeeping in the matter of getting a new pope. They are not The Tradition. The Church could abolish the entire college of cardinals tomorrow (just as she invented it a thousand years ago) and it would not alter the Tradition a jot. You may as well say your parish finance council is apostolic tradition. Do not bind God to contracts he never signed.

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  • As far as I can tell, you are right. The church definitely could do this. Whether she ought to or not is another story. The College of Cardinals may not be big-T tradition, per se, but it no doubt embodies aspects of big-T tradition and we should be veeeeery leery of changing things just because we want to get a nice feeling from being as gender-balanced as we can possibly be. If, on the other hand, there are really, really good reasons to change the makeup of the college, then … as you please.

    • Mark Shea

      I can easily see all sorts of reasons that a Helen Alvares, Camille Pauley, Janet Smith, or Mary Ann Glendon would have lots of valuable things to offer the Church in terms of governance. Women are as competent at running hospitals, abbeys, schools and anything else requiring administrative charisms as men. They are also just as capable of orthodoxy and theological insight as men (which is why we have four women doctors of the Church). I see not one reason not to find the best out there and make them cardinals too. Obviously it shouldn’t be done on a brainless affirmative action basis simple so the Church can have a quota of XX chromosomes. But it should be done because there is a vast untapped resource that can really assist the Church in her mission. Go for it, sez I.

      • I’d love to see if that story about Mother Theresa and Blessed Pope John Paul II has some documentation. Any of your minions able to track down that quote?

      • Rosemarie


        Aren’t there three female Doctors of the Church? It’s still just Sts. Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux, right? Or did they declare another one while I wasn’t paying attention? 🙂

        • Sam Urfer

          St. Hildegard of Bingen is getting the honor later this year.

          • Rosemarie


            Wonderful! I gave a presentation on her in college for campus ministry; she’s always been one of my favorite female saints. Yes, she definitely deserves it.

      • Hugh Embriaco

        When the Church had “lay cardinals” they were restricted to men in tonsure. Theoretically, you might open up the cardinalate to nuns, but not to married women like Camille Pauley.

        Also, lay cardinals never participated in the election of a pope. In more recent times, after the abolition of lay cardinals, cardinalates were awarded to priests, but only after turning 80.

        So nuns past the age of 80 might qualify for the honorific.

        The Prince Grand Master of the Knights of Malta (Sir Matthew Festing) is styled His Eminence, and enjoys the rank of a Cardinal in liturgical functions, but he is merely a layman under vows. He does not participate in papal elections.

        Avery Dulles did not participate in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict.

        • Mark Shea

          Unless, of course, the Church decides to open the cardinalate up to married women and make them electors of the Pope too. Since it’s a human creation and not sacred tradition, she could theoretically do that. If she does, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

          • Hugh Embriaco

            The electors of the Pope are the clergy of Rome. The cardinals represent the clergy of Rome: he’s given a titular church in Rome or around Rome. So it would not make sense to have a female cardinal electing a Pope.

  • Kml

    Reminds me of 2005 when my husband reminded me that since any baptized Catholic could be called to be Pope, technically he was eligible. I told him to let me know when he got the phone call.

    • APS

      As I look at Canon Law, only baptized MALES can be elected pope.

    • Will

      So, who would give the dispensation for a husband to be ordained? And if he was not, how could he be Bishop of Rome?

      • voice

        This has been an interesting journey into Catholic history. How leaders are elected, who can be elected, etc. ALL Catholics should read Church history because it will change their view of the Church. Pope elected by laity? Married Pope? You betcha. Get out your history books and read boys and girls. It can all be changed. This is how it was.

      • My understanding is that, in theory, any baptized *single* male can be elected Pope, but in practice this only ever applied to
        a) young men who were, ahem, family members of some Popes in the Middle Ages
        b) some prominent monks, priors or abbots who were known for their scholarship but not yet ordained priests
        And a layman named Pope has to go through the three ordinations, just as Cardinal Dulles was ordained a bishop.

        But while we’re discussing oddities and hypotheticals, we have a biritual deacon in our parish, and he was telling me how there’s a ceremony in the Byzantine tradition where, since a married priest cannot be ordained a bishop/eparch, they sometimes have a situation where the best candidate for an open eparchy is a married priest. In that case, there’s basically a divorce ceremony where he puts away his wife and she takes vows as a nun *before* he’s ordained an eparch.

  • What Kml said. And Jon W. I do remember being full of bitter disappointment back in spring of 2005 when I did not get that phone call from Rome during the conclave. Electing a world-renowned theologian and scholar, a veteran priest, bishop, cardinal, and Vatican insider to the papacy when they could have called me? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? What were they thinking?

    Right. Just because they *can* do something doesn’t mean they should, or else sex-change operations would be okay. I can’t imagine any pope stupid enough to create a woman a cardinal, and no, Mark, it will not happen in our lifetimes, our children’s lifetimes, or our grandchildren’s lifetimes — or ever.

    • Maiki

      Sex change operations involve mutilation of the body — something that is considered immoral without grave health reasons. It is not just a matter of being able to do it.

      I don’t see why creating a woman cardinal would be *stupid*. Creating an unqualified woman a cardinal to fill a quota or milestone would be stupid, but if a woman is holy, knows enough about theology and the history of the Church as well as the administrative aspects incumbent on cardinals, I don’t think it would be stupid. No more stupid than making women “Doctors of the Church” — it had never been done until recently, but there was no theological reason not to.

    • Mark Shea

      You’re entitled to your opinion. But when it does happen, don’t freak out. It’s not a change to the tradition. Just a tweaking of a purely manmade piece of bureaucratic machinery.

      • No One

        Sean may understand this, but I anticipate many un-catechized Catholics in the pew won’t. They may see women cardinals as confirmation of the “feminization” of the Church and stick by their pro-choice/contraception/etc. views that have been hurting the church all this time. Just a thought.

        • Mark Shea

          Only if they are stupid. Because any female cardinal the Church creates will be ardently prolife.

        • “Only if they are stupid”

          Mark, seriously?? How about, only if they are ordinary human beings? Because what No One described will be the reaction of the majority of Catholics: left, right, or center, they will have that reaction. And after the factionalism it will cause, creating woman cardinals will most definitely cause scandal as well — scandal as that word us understood by the Catholic Church.

          And how can you possibly know that “any female cardinal the Church creates will be ardently prolife”? I’m sorry, but are women somehow exempt from original sin? Is there some guarantee, that the rest of us don’t know about, that female cardinals will not be prone to the same errors, misjudgments, and intellectual weaknesses to which male cardinals are subject?

          Holy crap Mark. You are one of the wisest, most insightful people I know. It was you who turned me around on both torture and lying for Jesus. But that is one of the dumbest declarations I have ever read, from you or anyone else. Please take some time to think about this.

          • Mark Shea

            I can say it because I am confident the Pope would not create pro-abort cardinals. And if he does, what insures that males will be prolife? As it is, there are plenty of orthodox prolife women out there. Should some nitwit try to say that a female cardinal is an argument for abortion, the quick reply would be “Don’t you think you should ask Her Eminence if she supports abortion?” A cardinal Helen Alvares would have tart remarks for somebody making such a claim.

            I’m unclear how creating a female cardinal would cause scandal. Scandal is not mere offense. Scandal is the temptation to sin and violate one’s own conscience. So if you dislike Harry Potter and I enjoy him, I am not “scandalizing” you by reading him. I’m just offending you. And offense on your part does not create a moral obligation on my part. if, however, you were a kid whose parents taught you Harry was evil and I, by reading him in front of you, tempted you to do something you believed was wrong (such as reading Harry in defiance of your parents), I would be giving you scandal by tempting you to sin.

            How is it a matter of conscience if the Church makes female cardinals? It may offend somebody who just likes old administrative ways of doing business. But I can’t see how it tempts anybody to violate their conscience.

          • “I can say it because I am confident the Pope would not create pro-abort cardinals. And if he does, what insures that males will be prolife?”

            Nothing insures that the males are pro-life, which is why there’s no way you can guarantee that the females would be prolife.

            Do you really not think this kind of thing can happen? Once upon a time, you could have said that there is no way the Pope would ever appoint a predatory homosexual as a bishop, yet I know of two cases off the top of my head — one of them is a former bishop of my own diocese — where it did happen. Bl. Pope John Paul relied on very bad advice from men who did not have the Church’s best interests at heart when he made those appointments. In my diocese we are still cleaning up the damage.

            My point is, if that can happen, then it’s entirely possible that the Pope can, through no fault of his own, create a pro-choice cardinal.

            “Scandal is the temptation to sin and violate one’s own conscience.”

            Yes, and this includes tempting people to violate their consciences into thinking that women’s ordination and the rest of the pelvic issues of the Left are okay, which, given human nature, is entirely possible if a female cardinal is ever created — no matter how holy and orthodox she may be.

            Here’s another example: a permanent deacon at my father-in-law’s parish has him convinced, against everything he was taught his entire life, that female ordination is not only okay, but necssary. Now that’s just one deacon and one old man — plus anyone else that deacon has fed this bullshit too, I guess. But think of how much more ammo this deacon would have for his heresy, and how many more people he could lead astray, if we had women cardinals. And again, the holiness and orthodoxy of the women in question does not matter. Heretics would use it to lead people astray.

            • Mark Shea

              Only if the women cardinals advocated for women’s ordination. If they instead were the principal *opponents* of women’s ordination, it would be a whole nother ball game. That’s why I think it’s a mistake to assume that a female cardinal must automatically mean giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the Tradition.

            • Beadgirl

              Also, I suspect there will always be people who believe abortion is ok, or that women must be ordained, etc. Heck, we have that now, even though there are no female Cardinals. Refusing to ever appoint a female cardinal because some would interpret it wrongly seems silly to me — everything the Church does is subject to someone in this world interpreting it wrongly.

              Another way to look at it — the Pope could unwittingly appoint a male Cardinal who is pro-choice, as you suggested, and to do so could cause others to believe abortion is ok. Should the Pope therefore never appoint male Cardinals?

              • Virginia

                Beadgirl, no one who believes in abortion, women priests, or any of the other nonsense that is condemned by the Church is Catholic. If we do not accept the Church’s teachings 100% we are not of the Church. Also, scandal is never “silly” it is a very real and serious problem within the Church. It drags souls to Hell and is prohibited by Our Lord. No one had the right or reason to be scandalized by the Church’s teachings or actions until the Council. There was plenty of reason to be scandalized by individuals actions but not by the teachings of the Church. There is absolutely no purpose for the innovation of appointing a woman cardinal. And no one would even think of doing it if women didn’t think they have to be men these days. Men everywhere are castrated by feministic women. It always existed but in the old days they were called shrews and fishwives, now
                they are called emancipated. Why does anyone think it would be okay to make a woman a cardinal when St. Paul prohibited them from speaking in the Church. All of the women saints that have been referred to in the comments section, the canonized women saints, would be appalled at the state of affairs that exists today within the world regarding women. Why, St. Teresa the Great was disgusted by the way women walked about in the open markets in Sevilla. These holy women were satisfied to be women and to serve God in the capacity of a woman. God help us when women run the Church. It is bad enough that some of the men who run it don’t really act like men.

    • Oh trust me, Mark, if it happens, me freaking out will be the last thing you or anyone else will have to worry about.

      I mean, has not the Church had enough factionalism and division and damn-near civil war these past 40+ years? After all massive efforts of Bl. John Paul II to keep large swaths of the Church from breaking off into schism, and the continued efforts of Pope Benedict — the Pope of Christian Unity — to keep us headed in the same direction that JP pointed us toward, and when things are, little by little, finally starting to calm down a bit, do we really need something like this?

      I stand by what I said: sure, it *can* be done, but I highly doubt any Pope would be stupid enough to do it.

      • Markie Marie Works

        I agree,just because ” on paper ” this might be plausable,doesn’t mean it’s prudent. We’re trying to Catechise our own people on the Basics of Formation of Conscience & the Reality of The True Presence Of Jesus In The Holy Eucharist FIRST. Throwing this bone in the mix will only cause even more dissent and division in an American Catholic Church who’s majority of people don’t even know why they go to Mass in the first place.

    • c matt

      Elizabeth Anxcombe might have made a fine cardinal. BTW, are there currently any non-bishop, non-ordained cardinals?

      • Maiki

        Cardinal Dulles was non-bishop, but he died a few years ago. Otherwise, no. The code of 1917 prevented non-priests and the code of 1983 prevented non-Bishops without a dispensation.

  • brother

    Canon 351.1:

    “The Roman Pontiff freely selects men [viri] to be promoted as cardinals, who have been ordained at least into the order of the presbyterate and are especially outstanding in doctrine, morals, piety, and prudence in action; those who are not yet bishops must receive episcopal consecration.”

    • Amy

      Canon Law is not Sacred Tradition. It can, and does, change.

      • That cardinals “must” receive episcopal consecration is not a hard and fast rule – Cardinal Dulles did not, as he was dispensed from this by the Pope. (He said he was too old to be a bishop).

        • Zed

          Cardinal Dulles was also not ever eligible to vote. Making him a cardinal was primarily honorific.

          • Matt

            He was not eligible to vote because he was over 80, not because he was dispensed from ordination as a bishop. However, as a matter of unofficial policy, it could be that the pope would not have granted that dispensation to a man who was eligible to vote in a conclave.

      • Will

        And in this case, HAS been changed. Mazarin was only in minor orders.

    • Mark Shea

      Canon law can be re-written. Which is my point.

      • sam

        You have to love cafeteria catholics, they’ll worship the devil if it suits their need.

        I will pray a prayer of reparation at Compline tonight for the heresy against God’s will (i.e. that only men shall lead His Church) committed by you (Mark), the Archbishop and the Monk-Priest on the video.

        May through the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God the Ever-Virgin Mary, may we all find the true path of salvation through her only begotten-Son Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of kings. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Amen!

        • Mark Shea

          So good to have a combox inquisitor when you need one.

    • Where’s Ed Peters when you need him?

    • Maiki

      On the point of “canon law can be rewritten” — the 1917 canon didn’t require episcopal consecration at all, and the one before that did not require Holy Orders. Tonsured non-ordained brothers had been Cardinals prior to then — there was such a thing as a “lay Cardinal” albeit rare.

      • bob cratchit

        Heck…potentially you wouldn’t even have to be Catholic with this logic

  • The way the college of cardinals is set up presupposes they are clergy – honorary members of the clergy of Rome; the top ones are made titular bishops of sees directly subordinate to Rome, and the rest titular pastors of Roman churches. Evidently there could be exceptions. I seem to recall that Pope Paul VI wanted to make his much-admired friend, a French layman, philosopher Jacques Maritain, a cardinal. It didn’t work out for some reason, though.

    I would agree that women cardinals would be a great addition to the Church’s governance, and perhaps allow them to assume more authoritative posts in the Curia and the top canonical courts, as special advisers to the Pope, etc.

    • stceolfrithtx

      I have so many comments, but my questions are probably better.

      What would a female cardinal even wear? What does the garb of cardinals currently signal to laypeople and to outsiders about the wearer’s vocation?

      What is the state of catechesis in the Church? How much catechesis would it take to prepare people for female cardinals and to understand what the development did and did not mean? Would preparing people properly for such a development even be possible when so many already misunderstand the Church as it is? Would it be a prudent use of limited time and the limited attention of those being taught?

      Potential for scandal has been mentioned: wouldn’t this increase the temptation to sin for those who advocate the “ordination” of women and those who consider attempting to receive such invalid ordinations, DESPITE the fact that it logically should not? Would the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury not certainly launch a press release lauding this as a positive step to unity in ‘their’ direction despite the fact that it was not?

      What would this signal to the SSPX about the sincerity of our desire for reunion with them, even though their potential for misunderstanding the change would not be solely our fault?

      Would this move us TOWARD more first meetings and meaningful steps toward unity between the Pope and Eastern or Oriental Christian Patriarchs or further away? Would the pats on the back from the secular world, if they were even delivered, be worth the confusing missteps on the path of real ecumenism?

      Why are the modern candidates suggested here all LAYwomen? Is it a good idea to dispense with the disciplines of restricting the college of cardinals to men AND to the ordained at the same time? Why did the Church stop naming layMEN candidates? What graces of the fullness of holy orders in episcopacy have proven to be very useful in a college of cardinals?

      To what extent could the benefits of the change be reduced mainly to “public relations boost”? Do the public relations benefits or any other benefits together outweigh all the disadvantages?

      I just think initiating female cardinals would be terribly imprudent. I think it would have some benefits, but that the drawbacks would overshadow them several times over.

      You’re right, Mark: it’s technically possible to create female cardinals. But at what cost, if it was done in our lifetime?

      • Maggs

        I’m entirely with you. Well reasoned argument. Excellent points.

  • vickie

    Female prelates are not something that I want to see. It seems to me that shortly after Protestant denominations had women heads, soon after there was blatant heresy from the pulpit. I rather remember Saint Paul that women are not to have authority over men in Church.

    • Mark Shea

      And yet the Church has never understood that to mean that women cannot run hospitals and have authority over the men who work there, cannot be university professors and have authority over the men they teach, or be queens and presidents and have authority over whole nations. Don’t bind God to contracts he never signed.

      • Jeff

        Authority in Church is quite a different animal than a hospital or a university. I think I might side with St. Paul on this one.

    • Well and good, as far as it goes, Mark, but you are drawing parallels where there are none. A better analogy would be: would the Church put a nun over a male religious community? Or a man over a female religious community? Have fun trying to make monks answer to an abbess, or trying to make nuns answer to an abbot.

      • Saint Brigid held office as Abbess with authority over the double monastery of Kildare. She invited a bishop to reside there and minister to sacramental needs.

        But I was reminded of Frank Sheed’s response when it was suggested he be named to the College: that there would never be a Frank Cardinal Sheed unless accompanied by Maisie Cardinal Ward.

        Warm greetings after so long, Mark, and best wishes.


        • Suburbanbanshee

          In Ireland, at least for the first thousand years, most abbots and abbesses had bishops underneath them. Irish bishops back then sometimes ran ten or twenty per monastery. (Albeit the monasteries were very large and had many daughter/son monasteries in their area; and so the senior monasteries of men and women pretty much took the place of diocesan structures. And so bishops were pretty much like monsignors, except with bishop powers.)

          The point is that many abbesses of large monasteries (in Germany and elsewhere) have historically had the powers of the local ordinary, except for not doing any ordaining and such bishop stuff. These ladies had the right and privilege to wear bishop gloves and carry a bishop crozier, although the miter they historically wore was a deaconess hat that had miter-like features. Today, there’s still a few abbess-ordinaries that have a miter (bishop miter) carried before them in processions, but they don’t wear it and they don’t ordain people.

          Anyway, in German states where the ruler was named by electors, and bishops usually served as electors by virtue of their office, a lot of these abbess-prelates were royal electors. (Toting their gloves and croziers with ’em.) So having a female cardinal act as papal elector wouldn’t be totally off the Western Civ curve.

          • Victor

            Sorry, but this is not true. The German King (who was consequently crowned Roman Emperor by the pope) used to be elected by a college of Prince Electors, four of whose were princes (the King of Bohemia, the Marchgrave of Saxony, the Marchgrave of Brandenburg, and the Count of Palatinate), the other three were bishops (Archbishop of Cologne, Mainz, Treves). These seven (at the end of the old Empire, they had added two other princes) comprised the whole electoral body.
            All the other principalities of the German states were hereditary; while there were parliaments of some sort where the lords (and, in case of abbesses, ladies) of the realm sat, they never elected a successor to the deceased prince.

            • paladinryan

              CE seyz:

              “In Germany the Abbesses of Quedimburg, Gandersheim, Lindau, Buchau, Obermünster, etc., all ranked among the independent princes of the Empire, and as such sat and voted in the Diet as members of the Rhenish bench of bishops. They lived in princely state with a court of their own, ruled their extensive conventual estates like temporal lords, and recognized no ecclesiastic superior except the Pope. After the Reformation, their Protestant successors continued to enjoy the same imperial privileges up to comparatively recent times.”

      • Rosemarie


        Monks in the Brigittine order apparently had no problem answering to the abbess in charge of their double monastery. Back when that arrangement existed, that is. (Most of those Brigittine monasteries were destroyed during the Protestant Revolt. The few that currently exist are just for nuns except for one in Oregon which is solely for monks.)

        Yet double monasteries led by an abbess were St. Birgitta’s original vision for the order. The monastery was, of course, under the local bishop who was understood to represent Christ, while the abbess represented the Virgin Mary.

    • Ed Pie

      My impression has been that positive heresy sprouts wherever and to he extent that orthodoxy is abandoned. Things really started going downhill in modern times at Lambeth in 1930, but I didn’t hear about Anglican bishopesses until the 1980s. Not that I couldn’t be misinformed.

      I can think of two women who honestly seemed to feel the call to the priesthood (I’m not saying their discernment was correct, just saying that they’re drawn to it for the reasons I would expect a man with a real vocation would express), but there are scads who want the job for the glory of presiding over mass, or just because it would be fair, or so they could wield the power to remake the Church in the name of postmodern western whatever. If the ground is fertile for heresy and someone opens that door, heretics are going to make up for lost time. That it’s women may be a historical coincidence; if gay marriage had been approved first, things may have developed differently but I wouldn’t be surprised if these ecclesial groups going off the rails would have ended up pretty much where they already are.

  • Mitchell

    The problem remains that Cardinals are created as Cardinal Bishops, Cardinal Priests, and Cardinal Deacons, they must be priests at the least. When Cardinal Dulles was made a cardinal a dispensation had to be given since he did not want to be ordained a bishop. As you said the Cardinaliate is a made up bureaucratic position, but for there to be women Cardinals, we would need some new sort of cardinal position. Once upon a time there were Lay-Cardinals that had to be at least a religious or entered into minor orders. If that was restored I could see Cardinal-Sisters or Cardinal-Brothers, but the thing about Cardinals is that they become part of the clergy of Rome. Perhaps if there were non-clerical cardinals they could be enrolled as Diocesan Religious.

    • Mark Shea

      All this means is that Rome would need to rewrite the purely manmade rules about who gets to be a Cardinal. That’s doable.

      • Mitchell

        Yes but even small-t tradition is important and should not be changed on a whim. Careful thoughtful changes that keep in mind the historical nature of the thing are essential, otherwise the institution will become meaningless. Cardinals are and always have been honorary clergy of Rome, to allow for women cardinals, while possible means changing the nature of 1000 year old institution within the Church. It might be laudable to do so, but it is not as simple as “changing man made rules.” There is not a simple split with Tradition on one side and man made rules on the other. In many ways it is a continuum. The laws concerning the cardinaliate are man made, but it also has the weight of 1000 years of history behind it. On paper it might be that simple to make women cardinals, but then so is a lot of things, in reality the picture is much more complicated then you seem to be making it out to be.

      • What Mitchell said. Really, Mark, how well has the so-called “hermeneutic of disruption” served the Church these past 40 years?

        • Mark Shea

          How well has an administrative and governance structure that is massively out of touch with the concerns of faithful laity served the Church these past 40 years? I think faithful lay cardinals, both men and women, could go a long way to correcting life inside the bubble of clericalism.

          • Mitchell

            The idea is laudable, it just is a much trickier thing then you are suggesting.

            • Mark Shea

              I’m perfectly aware it’s a tricky thing. I’ve had people scream at me every time I point out it’s possible. All the screaming makes it clear it would be a tricky thing. What it would not be–in the slightest–is the Church jettisoning apostolic tradition. Which is my point.

            • ds

              Mark did you even stop to consider that the College of Cardinals doesn’t even have women’s bathrooms? Where would her eminence pee!? This is an outrage!

              • Mark Shea

                You’re right! Forget the whole thing. What was I *thinking*?

              • Beadgirl

                How dare you suggest women are not capable of using a men’s restroom?!?!

                • bob cratchit

                  Heck yeah, ever been to a rock concert

                • Rosemarie


                  Sure, we could use a men’s room, but would we really want to? Yuck. 😛

                  Seriously, though, does the Sistine Chapel not have a ladies room?

                  • S. Murphy

                    Even the Marine Corps can figure out how to make a sign that says ‘male’ on one side and ‘female’ on the other, so it can be hung on the door and flipped as required. I bet the Vatican can figure this out. 😉

        • Maiki

          Except there were non-ordained cardinals prior to the 1917 Code of canon law.

  • No One

    I’m a woman and I don’t want to see it, doable or no.

    I’m not a trad, but I’m catechized, and while I agree with Mark that it’s “doable,” I think anyone who entertains the idea of women cardinals is cowtowing to The Woman narrative put out by the left.

    We’ve got Hillary, we’re seeing droves of women CEOs, we may have well have a woman prez soon. Social groups and NGOs throughout the world (particularly in Africa and the Middle East) are working very hard to empower women because they’re just brutalized by their societies … for the Vatican to do this, I think it’d be in response to what they see globally so that they can better respond politically. I don’t necessarily see this as a “need” in the Church.

    If there were a “need,” we almost start seeing a mandate on Marian devotions, like rosaries before all masses, etc.

    Mary’s The Woman we need, if only more people would pay more attention to her. A whole conclave full of women can’t be as powerful as one Mary.

    • Mark Shea

      I think anyone who entertains the idea of women cardinals is cowtowing to The Woman narrative put out by the left.

      Yes. I would welcome a Helen Alvares or Mary Ann Glendon as a cardinal because I am a leftist. Can’t talk. Have to get back to reading my Woman Narrative. *eye roll*.

      • No One

        Interesting trick, rolling that one eye ..

        1.) you can’t guarantee Alvares or Glendon would be picked and

        2.) I would think any cardinal or bishop would be prolife, too, so what would be the point, besides asserting that “we need a woman”?

        3.) and if 2’s the case — we’re only doing this to “get a woman in there,” who, exactly, are we satisfying? and when does it end?

        • Mark Shea

          1) But I can trust that the Pope is not going to create heterodox female cardinals just as I routinely trust he will not create heterodox male ones.

          2) Women have adminstrative and theological/philosophical charisms. The only thing the Church is not competent to do is make them priests.

          3) I was unaware that the goal of the Catholic life was to make sure as few people as possible get to exercise the charisms God has given them. You are assuming an affirmative action mentality. I’m assuming that the Church should avail herself of the gifts of all her members as fully as possible. Since the Church has always welcomed the gifts of women in the office of governance, this seems to me to be another place they could be employed.

          • No One

            a very fine answer, esp. #3, and on that note, I could now see how it would better expose women and little girls to the virtues of service to the Church and holiness, esp in light of the decline of the religious: “Mom, I want to be a Cardinal.”

            I’m still wary of the “why now?”, but I know it may very well be on the horizon. Nothing is just casually mentioned in passing anymore.

            When they do it, I’ll remember you, Mark, and remember not to be surprised.

      • Markie Marie Works

        Nothing personal,but I think your an intellectual snob! {Eye Roll}

        • Mark Shea

          News flash: That’s nothing but personal. Man up and take responsibility if you are going to deliver an insult intead of a thought.

  • Matthew

    While at a theoretical level I don’t see any theological problems. I do not think it is as simple as some might think. Historically the cardinals have been seen as the (honorary) pastors of Roman churches – hence each cardinal is given a church. I think there might be problems investing women as pastors, even honorary, of specific churches. In fact the move for the last century or so has been towards requiring all Cardinals to be bishops. Historically we have had Cardinal laymen – but the last one I think was prime minister of the papal states under Pius IX.
    As a prudential question, we live in a time that is DEEPLY confused about gender, I do not think that eliminating another marker distinguishing the genders at this point would be helpful.

  • Roberto

    I think that timing is a major issue here. The Church can abolish the general rule of priestly celibacy anytime, but doing it now would serve little or no purpose and would instead generate major backlash of all sorts. Elevating a woman to the cardinalate may be in the same category.
    I am sure that the Holy Spirit will inspire the Pope at the time and in the manner that will be beneficial to the Church.
    Which brings me to a reflection: maybe instead of focussing on whether we agree with this idea or not (something that will not influence the decision one iota), we should focus on better understanding what the role of Cardinals is and how we can help them fulfill it, through our prayers and cooperation. Or is that too boring?

  • Steve P

    Would they be known affectionately as “Princesses of the Church”? In any case, the male cardinals have better coloring…

    It always amazes me that people think these are somehow the worst times the Church has ever been through.

    • Rosemarie


      I wonder what garb these hypothetical female cardinals would wear. Cassocks and such are men’s garments. Would they wear scarlet dresses fashioned after a nun’s habit? What about head gear? Scarlet veil?

      • S. Murphy

        I’m in UAE, at the moment; saw an older woman (face wasn’t veiled) in an abaya with scarlet trim earlier today. It was very nice. Also dignified. Well, *she* was dignified. Carried herself with authority.

  • APS

    I think Matthew hit the nail on the head.

    Mark, you’re right that there would be no theological problems with women being named cardinals. However, there are a lot of other problems that aren’t theological. We would have to eliminate the ancient and venerable practice of the Clergy of Rome electing the Bishop of Rome. The female cardinals could not be pastors of the Roman parishes without eliminating the requirement that only priests can hold the office of pastor. And if we do that, it will open a pandora’s box around the world, especially in the West.

    Matthew also wisely points out that we live in a culture that seems to be “post-gender”. I don’t think it would be wise for us to join those ranks.

    Then there would be the scandal to much of the faithful. Seeing a woman dressed as a Cardinal would cause large amounts of confusion and, particularly outside of the West, no small amount of scandal.

    The long and the short of it is, although Mark is completely right that women could be named Cardinals without breaking divine or natural law, I just don’t see the benefit outweighing the scandal and what we’d have to change in Canon Law and tradition (small t) to make it happen.

    Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

    • Mark Shea

      I can see arguments for both sides. But they are all, in the end, prudential ones, as you note. My point is that a female cardinal is not an abandonment of apostolic tradition. Merely a tweaking of a manmade tradition. As to the fabulous benefits/unspeakably horrible consequences, that’s up the the Church’s leaders to weigh. For myself, I won’t be shocked if it happens. But, of course, it won’t happen under this Pope. And I’m fine with that. I’m in no hurry for it to happen, nor would I care if it happened tomorrow or never. But I think “never” is an awfully big claim and those who make it had better prepare themselves should the Church decline to agree with them.

    • “My point is that a female cardinal is not an abandonment of apostolic tradition. Merely a tweaking of a manmade tradition.”

      This brings us back to just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. You talk of prudential judgment, but Prudence should weigh heavily in your decision.

      • Mark Shea

        Fair enough. Like I say, I’m content either way. It’s not a big deal to me.

  • Romulus

    Mark is overlooking the small fact that, whatever charisms his she-cardinals might possess, they would not include that of Holy Orders. Nor has Mark explained how it could be fitting for the successor of Peter to be chosen by persons who’re not successors of the Apostles.

    • Mark Shea

      Since we’ve already had lay cardinals, you’ll have to take it up with the Church. Apparently the thing can be done.

      • Observer

        There is something anti-Chesterton about the whole argument. Chesterton described in “What’s Wrong with the World” that you could have a conclave of w’iches so to speak. If Christ said to St. Peter, “You are rock..And upon this rock I will build my Church (translation – my Bride.)” Christ left the Apostles and apostolic authority to guide His Bride (even His mother drops in from time-to-time to be a model and instrument for the Church. She was present with the Apostles. You could even say Mary is the Church’s Mother-in-Law.) He even tells St. Peter, “…feed my sheep.” So, the Apostles (and of course the Bishops and all faithful who are especially held to the consecrated life) are to nurture and suppor the Bride of Christ. If you have female cardinals, you may end up with a beastial relationship to the Church. And that is the consequence of a conclave of women who will try to tell the Bride what to do by election of the successor of St. Peter.

    • Maybe we should look up whether lay cardinals were eligible to vote in a conclave.

      • The answer to that is no, as far as I can tell. Also, while there have been cardinal deacons in the past, the Code of 1917 required cardinals to be priests, and the present Code requires them to be ordained bishops unless they receive permission otherwise.

        Sure, Canon Law can change, and the Church could decide to go back to having both cardinal deacons and lay cardinals. But I think she would try for cardinal deacons first, and see how that went, before elevating laity. Given that the permanent diaconate wasn’t around the last time we had cardinal deacons it could be interesting to start there, if the Church decided she had sufficient reason to backtrack to an older practice.

      • Maiki

        I think so:


        mentions Cardinal Ferdinand de Medici who was a layman the whole time he was Cardinal (he resigned when he got married, a few years after this conclave). He was likely present at two or three other conclaves before this one, but he isn’t mentioned in their proceedings.

        That is just one example. Although most lay Cardinals did eventually become ordained (such as St. Charles Borromeo, who was a cardinal before becoming a priest, but not before his first conclave), not all did.

    • wineinthewater

      The apostles left the selection of Judas’ replacement to chance by drawing lots. If that’s dignified enough, then I think allowing the holiest women in the Church to cast a vote is dignified too.

      And of course, we’ve had lay Cardinals before.

      Lay, even lay women, Cardinals is completely possible within Catholic teaching. In fact, I think it would be better than the current system, since electors would be chosen from the holiest and wisest the Church has to offer and not just the best bishops. The fact that it is fraught with so much potential for the creation of problems just demonstrates how fallen we are.

  • My honest opinion here is that while this may be an interesting sort of speculation regarding what the Church could do if she liked and if the Holy Spirit wished, etc., it’s all very well and good–but from a practical standpoint, I don’t see it happening. Sure, I could be wrong, and would accept whatever the Church decided to do–but I don’t think I’m wrong, and here’s why.

    The Church has experienced in the past both the opening up of once-clerical roles to the laity, and the closing off of once-lay roles (or at least possible lay roles) by reserving them only to the clergy. I recall a discussion re: female altar servers in which it was pointed out that altar servers themselves were “stand-ins” for what was once a clerical role–that is, that men in minor orders made the responses and assisted at the altar the way that lay altar servers eventually did in their place; once lay men (boys) had been allowed to take this role, it was certainly possible that lay women (girls) would eventually be allowed it, though it took a great deal of time, probably rightly given how long the role was seen as quasi-clerical (and there are still some people today who think that service on the altar is quasi-clerical and should go back to being restricted to males).

    But as Matthew pointed out, the last lay male cardinal served during the time of Pius IX–and he was only technically “lay” until he was ordained a deacon the same year he became a cardinal. Further, while it’s true that we speak of the non-deacon cardinals as lay cardinals no lay cardinal ever held that office without having been given first tonsure and minor orders. So even if the Church decided to resume the now-defunct practice of elevating lay men who had not been ordained as deacons to the office of cardinal, she would have to decide whether or not they had to be given first tonsure and admitted to minor orders as in the past, or whether this tradition should also be abolished. Granted, there is no clerical status conferred with the minor orders of reader and instituted acolyte, but it’s also the case as far as I know that so far women are still not admitted to these orders–so the question would be a weighty one.

    If the Church decided that lay men could be elevated to the status of cardinals without first being instituted as readers and acolytes, then she could, of course, decide to elevate women as well. If, however, the tradition of having men receive those minor orders or ministries before being elevated to the office of cardinal was seen as worthy of preservation due to its venerability and the long-standing nature of that custom, then the Church would have to decide whether or not it would be possible to confer minor (non-clerical) orders on women, or whether doing so would confuse the faithful too greatly given the historical nature of these orders and their connection in the minds of the faithful with the ordained priesthood, before she could even begin to address the question of whether lay women as well as men could become cardinals.

    But all of this would mean that instead of continuing along the same trajectory as before, that is, of slowly moving towards restricting the office of cardinal to the ordained, the Church would be moving backwards–and while that may sometimes happen, I think that in Church history it’s not quite as common as continuous movement in one direction or another–that is, toward either opening things up to the laity, or toward restricting them to the clergy.

    In any case, as neither a lay male nor a hypothetical lay female cardinal would likely ever be a part of the conclave that votes to elect new popes, it’s possible that admitting the laity to the role of cardinal would backfire, as those who trash the Church for her hierarchical and clerical nature would probably call the lay cardinals “second class cardinals” who are “unjustly” deprived of the right to vote…which would make things worse, not better, when it comes to understanding the deep distinction between the priesthood of the faithful and the ordained priesthood, and their very different roles and responsibilities.

    • Maiki

      I think lay Cardinals did vote in conclaves. Why do you think they didn’t? See post above on possible evidence.

  • Chris

    How about a new thread:

    If Ordinatio Sacerdotalis says “it is *only* the sacerdotal office to which the Church lacks the authority to ordain women” then how about permanent women deacons?

    Just asking.

    • Mitchell

      Is the deaconate a priestly ministry? If yes then no women deacons, at least not the same kind of deacons, that is non-ordained. If no, then women deacons are a go, but that raises the question of how do they share in the ministry of the bishop? Both priesthood and deaconate share in the ministry of the bishop, so it seems like they both are limited to men.

      I know there is a whole world of other arguments out there, frankly I think they all rise or fall on the nature of the deaconate.

  • Observer

    @Mark, Dailey, and all:

    I believe Cardinals should be consecrated either in marriage or to the consecrated life of Holy Orders. Although a single person must be baptized, the point is the Church is the Bride. And a Bride is meant for her Bridegroom. If a man or lady is consecrated either to one another in Christ through marriage or through being a nun or priest, he or she will know what it means to be consecrated to Christ in a life of devotion (i.e. marriage being the obvious condition of the Bride and Bridegroom or being a priest or nun having one heart and one mind to Christ and His Church.)

    No one should put their trust in men (let alone his laws) but God alone. Prayer, fasting, penance, almsgiving, and a fully devout life in the Sacrament are all necessary (I would ask for your prayers in this regard since my faith falters on this one.) St. Joan of Arc, Our Lady who became the Mother of God, Bl. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, and the Saint who told the Holy Father to remain in Rome (I forget the name of the saint) have all helped the Church and men faithful who hold up their vows of obedience to Christ.

    What sadly may happen, as Dailey points out, is the lesser tradition will be used to water down (and eventually break away from) the larger and major Tradition. That is, the nature of change which man’s laws have always been susceptible to (St. Paul wrote extensively on this in his letters) will no longer hold to the Traditions of the Church. So, the lesser traditions will be accepted as credible and sufficient for the Church’s life. Thus, from the onset, it will undo the consecrated Tradition of the Bride to fidelity to Christ and abandon (and quite possibly ruin) the salvific role, order, and destination for all humanity through the Church. Sadly, the Sacramental life will be abandoned.

  • I’m quite weary of this. This would be pure gold to the feminists out there, and I don’t know how we could safeguard the cardinalcy to ensure that only solidly catechized/traditional women can enter this position, and not use this as a power play for feminist equality. Plus the women may not want a masculine pope who goes about ordering things and doing actions like Benedict XVI has.
    And on the side note, if that happened, the SSPX would have a volcanic ash-spewed nutty, whether they were canonized in future or not and lambaste the “Vatican II” Church as they have before.

  • vickie

    Yes it sounds like a capitulation to the world. And yes, the protestants (and the Catholic church) has imbibed much of the modernist/relativist poison before woman. However, it seems that after women get promoted to ministrial positions, Protestant congregations die. I am not sure why… Women don’t need this and the Church does not need this, especially now.

  • Disgusted in DC

    If one really wanted to stir up a hornet’s nest, the Pope could always appoint Marine Le Pen as cardinal.

  • trespinos

    I think the first female Cardinal will be created in the same year as the Pope defines the Fifth Marian Dogma (using the terms presently proposed by its supporters). That is to say, never. Two ideas that have this in common: they will be inopportune in perpetuo.

  • Captain Peabody

    The Cardinalate historically is a sacerdotal office. The College of Cardinals is supposed to represent the chief priests of Rome, those who hold the most important churches and pastorates within her, and who are thus eligible for the office of the Papacy and have the power and competency to elect the Bishop of Rome. Obviously, the reality has moved quite far from this original ideal over time, but appointing female Cardinals would still, I think, represent a big break with the meaning the office of Cardinal has had for almost a thousand years. There’s nothing wrong with having more women inside and even presiding over the bureaucracy of Rome, but I don’t see why you’d have to make them Cardinals in order for them to do so. The Roman Curia is a different thing than the College of Cardinals; the Pope may appoint as many women as curial officials as he wishes, with as much authority as he wishes to give them, but it would be confusing for the faithful and strongly out of accord with little t tradition to appoint them as Cardinals.

    A veerrry long time ago, the populace of Rome elected their Popes by popular acclamation; given that, there’s in theory nothing preventing the Church from having laymen or women elect Popes. Obviously, though, there has been many, many centuries of tradition since then, and this tradition should be respected, I think. Just my two cents. I don’t think it’s ever likely to happen, frankly.

  • Observer

    The question remains, would such a change be conducive to and in conformity with the Sacramental life of the Church which is adhered to through Tradition?

    If anyone is really concerned where this is headed, then I advise reading St. Paul’s letters on the danger of lesser traditions (those of man) rather than God’s (the Major Traditions of the Church.) Remember, Christ came to save the world and not to condemn it. To remove the Church’s life from the Sacrament (or anyone’s for that matter) would be jeopardizing salvation (and the world.) And that is the consequence of lesser traditions. Afterall, if Saul (ahem..St. Paul) had his way and Christ did not knock him off of his donkey, the salvific life of the Church would have been terribly removed. Therefore, I entreat people to pray ardently as possible for any soul who is seduced or even disposed to ever letting go of salvation for whatever reason.

    I would hope in the hour of mercy and in His omnipotent love, God will prevent any such person from doing this and ardently oppose even giving the person any reason what’s so ever, out of love, from ever doing this. That He may truly save souls from this sort of condemnation and deliver people from this most wicked event that could happen. I would never wish any enemy to the Church (both from within and without) to ever jeopardize his or her salvation (or any others for that matter.)

    I really wish the day would happen when the Church may speak without the bridle muzzle upon her mouth to speak of how much God weighs His love with man by the very existence of h’ell (it means a lot to God because h’ell is the consequence of being absent of His love.) At least, she can speak of the hope of man’s salvation and Christ who suffered on the Cross with defeating death.

    I hope for the day which the Church may proclaim love, hope, mercy, grace, justice, penance, and the hope in her faith in the One Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) Hopefully, the Church may speak so well not in eloquence but in love.

    Just as the day St. Paul fell off his donkey, I hope men who pervert her teachings, mislead the faithful, abuse Church doctrine, and do all other ill-things conceived by men who work from within and without may be held on the account of Christ’s love and fidelity to save souls (even their own.) I hope the day will come..and very soon.

  • Jack

    Yes, they could be cardinals. What they should wear could hold things up.
    But IF (and that’s debatable) they have learnt from the disastrous decision of female altar boys, it will be a loooooong time before their are female cardinals.

  • antigon

    Dear Mr. Shea:

    Sorry, but Alvares, Smith & Glendon (don’t know Pauley’s work), for all their virtues, are too reminiscent of the (best) of the current male crop.

    Whereas given, if one might speak mildly, such widespread clerical malfeasance & governance these past fifty years, were there a Castle Howard version of Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess, she ought not only to be given the Hat, but put in charge of the Congregation of the Clergy. And reform of the seminaries. And of the liturgy, and, ah, such a list if we could but find such a one as Lady Cardinal Violet.

  • antigon


    Mr. Shea, your earlier linked article above indicates that, however astute your grasp of potential Lady (instead of but Lord) Cardinals, you’ve been laboring under a misapprehension for at least some six years regarding female Doctors of the Church.

    As with the Persons of the Trinity, there are but three such Doctors, not four.

    The latter is not eternally established, however, which the appearance of (& Hat to) our Catholic Dowager Countess shall soon, one hopes, reveal.

    • Mark Shea

      I stand corrected! 🙂

  • Sherry Weddell

    there’s about to be four women doctors of the Church since Blessed Hildegard of Bingen is supposed to be named as such later in the year.

    And I have to admit that the thought of Maggie Smith in scarlet does bring a smile to my face . . . She could decimate a room full of bishops with one lift of the eyebrow . . .

    • Is there any chance Cardinal Newman could get named a doctor? If it was up to me, I’d confer that doctorate in a second.

  • Richard M

    The problem is that most people – most Catholics – will not draw such fine distinctions between the cardinalate and the presbyterate. “If a woman can be made a cardinal, why can’t she be a priest?” And for that matter, since the Pope has been drawn almost always from the College of Cardinals, why not a Pope? And you *know* that will be the reaction. It would be a bad idea – a tremendously imprudent one – for that reason alone.

    And as Captain Peabody notes, it would “represent a big break with the meaning the office of Cardinal has had for almost a thousand years.” And that meaning has been sacerdotal, de facto if not de jure.

    It’s more than just a bad idea. It’s a theologically dangerous one. And for that reason, I expect it will never happen.

  • Fr. J

    Cardinals represent the clergy of the Diocese of Rome. That is why they elect the Pope. A woman could not do that. So I would say that a woman cardinal is impossible. Even “lay” cardinals in the past were tonsured as clerics even if they were not ordained yet in major orders. Actually many men were tonsured as it provided them protection from civil law and guaranteed they were only subject to ecclesiastical tribunals, among other benefits. So, sorry this isn’t going to happen.

  • Carl

    The Church is way too feminized as it is–leave it alone.

  • Jack

    The problem is that most people – most Catholics – will not draw such fine distinctions between the cardinalate and the presbyterate. “If a woman can be made a cardinal, why can’t she be a priest?”

    That’s why I made the connection to female altar boys.

    It’s one thing to discuss the possibility of this to achieve a better understanding but people who clamor for things like this have an agenda that they place above the good of the Church.

  • Jack

    The Church is way too feminized as it is–leave it alone.

    Best argument so far. Besides, Our Lady is already head of the College of Cardinals.

  • Rosina San Paolo

    I wrote a lengty rebuttle to this blog and it was wiped out! I am checking to see if this happens again.

  • That Hat Lady

    What part of NO don’t you understand? “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” THE MATTER IS CLOSED.

    • Mark Shea

      What makes you think I am talking about ordaining women to the priesthood?

  • Rosina San Paolo

    OK! I’m writing my comment again. I probably did something wrong with the one that was rejected!
    Why would Cardinal Dolan bring up the possibility of female Cardinals in the Catholic Church? Haven’t we had enough trouble with our overload on feminism in society and the church! I am 88 years old and two weeks from becoming 89. I have seen our religious sisters leave teaching and nursing to work with other social concerns. I see our Catholic youth deprived of the Catholic teachings that I received. I have seen priests, that I dearly love, follow the sisters and see the “seamless garment” as the blue print for social concerns. I don’t buy it! You can never convince me that a “poor person” has the same equality as a defenseless “baby in the womb”. I have witnessed the “smoke of Satan” in the Catholic Church that Pope Paul VI spoke of after Vaticum II. I accidently found a book written by Father Robert Hughes Henson called “Lord of the World”. It is a public domain book and I read it on the internet. Father Henson, an English Catholic Priest, wrote it 100 years ago. It speaks frightenly of what we are experiencing today.

  • Tom Heibel

    What a horrible idea! While the Cardinals may just be a bureaucratic division of the Church, it has clearly become a liturgical norm. Separating the Cardinals from the chain of command would be as easy as separating your arm from your body with a spoon.

    Since Cardinal Dolan makes it out to be just a title, then why do we listen to him? His command and authority comes from his clear lifetime devotion to the Church and Jesus Christ. Not a clear devotion to a hospital, school or Catholic charity. Imagine a woman from the CCHD becoming a Cardinal. She would destroy the Church!

    Do we hold Mother Teresa in saintly regards because of her devotion or because of her title? The idea that a woman could be a Cardinal is never what the forefathers intended. The only reason Cardinal Dolan is pushing this is because of societal pressure. He should not be discussing it in any detail!

    My last point … Why do I have to be the one to say this??? I’m tired of the Cardinals and Bishops making all the “wrong” decisions. MAN UP!!!

    Come follow me on Twitter if you agree @heibeltom

    • Mark Shea

      It’s fascinating how the presumption is that a woman cardinal *must* be a heterodox woman. it’s also fascinating that Dolan and Groeschel acknowledging the theoretical possibility of a female cardinal transmogrifies into “Dolan pushing this” plus a complete psychological analysis of why he is doing so. Project much?

  • Richard

    It seems better to leave well enough alone. The Church has proved itself less than a beacon of remarkable Christian spirituality and leadership for contemporary society (20th/21st cetury). Otherwise it would be of one mind and one spirit and not divided by politics/political correctness/contemporary worldly values. For anyone who really wants to know they can ask the LordGod Jesus Christ(whose Church it is)when they see Him(and we all will see Him.Whether or not He will be willing speak to usindividually is another matter) why there are no women priests.

  • Judy

    I can almost guarantee that if that happens, women will once again push to be priests, and in that vein, it seems we NEED the cardinals to be priests, for many reasons. It will only open a HUGE can of worms, and we surely do not need any more “worms” crawling around Holy Mother Church. We are just at the point were we are actually getting rid of many that have been “crawling” around doing much damage to the faithful, for far too long.

  • That Hat Lady

    Mark, Father J and Richard M put it bluntly to you: The problem is that most people – most Catholics – will not draw such fine distinctions between the cardinalate and the presbyterate. “If a woman can be made a cardinal, why can’t she be a priest?” It is an open door for the devil to further feminize the church. How do we know they would be radical females? Just look female politicians, and what they did to our health care system. Look at the experience of the Evangelical church. The Catholic church would be no different. Read Dr. Michael Youssef’s piece on OneNewsNow called “How the apostates take over (Part 2)”. Please google that and learn something.

    • Mark Shea

      But, you see, I *do* draw that distinction, which is why your response makes no sense since you seem to think I am arguing that women should be priests. I’m not. So why not address what I’m saying instead of what I’m not saying? And why assume that a female cardinal would be a radical? I find that assumption very strange. Do you seriously believe that a Benedict XVI, for instance, would choose a Nancy Pelosi for a cardinal? Your argument boils down to “The Church should never do anything people could misunderstand”. I’m sorry to say, but that ship sailed 2000 years ago.

      • Fr. J

        I don’t know that I was being blunt, but just precise as I am a canonist. All cardinals receive a “title” in Rome. They represent the Roman clergy in the election of the Bishop of Rome. Can. 351 §1 “Those to be promoted Cardinals are men freely selected by the Roman Pontiff, who are at least in the order of priesthood and are truly outstanding in doctrine, virtue, piety and prudence in practical matters; those who are not already Bishops must receive episcopal consecration.” At times the Pope derogates from the law and allows a presbyter to not be consecrated a bishop. No female cardinals ever existed. Even “lay” cardinals were tonsured as clerics, many men were in those days. Today entry into the clerical state is tied to the diaconate. Basically it isn’t going to happen and an excellent argument can be made that it can’t.

        • Mark Shea

          Unless, of course, they change canon law–which they are free to do if they like since this particular office is a human creation and not part of sacred tradition, which was my point. I don’t think it likely either. I merely don’t think it worth freaking out about should the Church decide lay (and female) cardinal are a good idea.

          • Fr. J

            Mark, I think a case can be made that they would declare that this is of doctrinal weight since it involves the concept of clergy electing the Pontiff. I remember it being mentioned in canon law class that in the old days bishops were told to leave canon law to the canonists and not meddle. Still good advise for non-canonist bishops lol.

            • Mark Shea

              Although, there are lots of ways of doing it beside this, including the Coptic Orthodox tradition:

              A blindfolded child will deliver the final word on the election of the successor of Shenouda III, the recently deceased Coptic Pope. According to customary voting practice, the child will pull one of three cards, with various names written on them, out of a silver urn. For centuries, the Coptic Orthodox Church has chosen its leaders through this unique system, at the end of a complex, multi-step process which lasts several months.

              Now that’s what I call lay involvement in governance. 🙂

  • Mouse

    I can’t listen to the clip at this moment, and will do so later, but my initial reaction is this: Why on earth would anyone want to do this? What a horrible idea! I am a woman, and I think women have many gifts to offer the Church and there is nothing wrong with according them more influence in some way, but not in this way.

    First of all, it is unbiblical for women to have ecclesiastical authority over men, and it is also unnatural in my opinion and leads to all kinds of counterproductive errors and tensions. Secondly, experience has shown that when you let women into any kind of authority in the church, they take over everything. Look at your local parish. The women have taken over everything, and dare I say, not for the better. I for one rejoice when I actually get to hear a man read the scripture for once in a parish, and the things my sisters if Christ do, and believe, horrify me many a time. much more than the men. I think having women in the cardinalate would send it into confusion and destroy it. AND just like in dioceses all over America, men’s natural desire not to anger women (or whatever the problem is) would lead them to put up with all kinds of foolishness instead of giving unfaithful women the heave-ho. Third, given the way that very unsound women have been given roles in diocesan offices, and from there are spreading their dissent or making it hard for faithful souls to work against dissent, what makes us think that the same kind of women wouldn’t end up as Cardinals? Fourth, it will confuse and embolden those who believe in women’s ordination and they will use it to continually hammer the Church with their erroneous views, to the ever-increasingly confusion of the already confused faithful. Fifth, symbolically speaking they when officially dressed will look like pseudo-priests or priestesses. Sixth, it will only make the faithful think that everything can change, which they already do think do to the incredible level of sloth and dissent in our church. I could go on… Perhaps it is technically possible, but I do not think this is a good idea at all.

  • Mouse

    PS. BUT if the Magisterium decides to allow this, I will accept that I am wrong and never utter a peep about it, and that should be the approach we all take!

  • Michelle

    This makes no sense, since isn’t it from the cardinals that the future Popes are elected? Stuff like this creates confusion. You are not helping the cause Mark, but rather just looking for a good discussion. Really.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes. Helping the cause means not thinking. Very confusing. Catholics should never think or discuss ideas. They should just fall in line with whatever their subculture says and always panic when somebody has an idea that is strange or new to the subculture.

      How did the Catholic intellectual tradition come to this–and among its defenders?

    • One of the points of theology is to have a good discussion!

  • dom

    technically true but practically speaking no, as history attests.

  • dominic

    technically true but not otherwise.

  • Bob Rowland

    Why do you suppose God didn’t allow that honor to Mary in the early Church? I do not believe her humility would have allowed her to agree. We have many more important issues that need all of our attention.

    • There were no cardinals in the early Church. The cardinalate was created in the early 2nd millennium to assist the pope.

  • Scott101

    I don’t think this is as ‘easy’ as everyone thinks.
    The role of Cardinal is connected with governance of the Church and one of primary responsibilities of bishops is to govern.
    This is why, if a layman is called to be pope, he would need to be ordained priest and bishop before he would be crowned Pope.
    As the role of Cardinal is one of decision making and governance I doubt it is open to women. Women can be doers and advisors but they can’t make decisions because Our Lord has given the grace of state for leading to the clergy alone.

    • The role of cardinal is not a matter of governing a parish or diocese. It is a matter of assisting the pope and electing a new one when the current one dies.

  • Good post. I was wondering about this just the other day; I wasn’t sure whether there had ever been lay cardinals before. I would support this move because I think having more women with the gift of leadership exercising that gift in an official capacity in the Church (whether at the parish or diocesan level or in the Holy See) could help us during a time when we have suffered much because of failures of Catholic leadership.

  • Old Angel

    Leave it to NCR to teach this old lady something. I cannot believe the machinations of the CC. Anyway, in taking a bible study class many, many yrs. ago, our Pastor said that the reason why we have cardinals is that since the kings had princes, then the Pope at that time felt he should also have princes, so that is why cardinals are known as “princes of the church”. Like someone said, a political thing. I always believed it was priest, bishop, then cardinal and then pope in that order. Oh, well, every day I learn something new.
    Our first priests, the apostles were married so–o-o-o-o-o-?

  • Mrs. Baker

    Mark, you mentioned Janet Smith as one who would be a great choice. However, I think she is one of those who would argue that the Catholic Church is one of the strongest proponents of being true to the nature and dignity of women. COULD a woman become cardinal? I guess. SHOULD a woman become cardinal? No. We are meant to mirror Mary and be the embodiment of Mother Church–not to be the male figures of the hierarchy. Mary’s role was always one of support and love. But never was she put into a position of authoritative decision making. Her role, in many ways, was more glorious and more dignified than that of the apostles. Because it pleased God to let her go unnoticed. If that is good enough for Mary, it’s good enough for me. And should be god enough for any woman.

    • Mark Shea

      Lots of women are and have been put into the position of authority and decision making. Some of them are saints of the Church. Women have been queens, abbesses, presidents of nations, hospital administrators and founders of orders. The Church teaches that she is not competent to ordain women to the priestly office. Period. She says nothing against and plenty in favor of women possessing charisms of administration and governance.

  • Joseph

    There is a unique charism, a genius associated with each sex. I wonder how certain religious in the Church would feel about a cannonically legitimate lay authority, whose manifest reason for existence, was searching out potential so-called Pentecostal,” renewed”, or otherwise, heretics, however confused or hardened. Similarly, imagine another robust lay engine demanding all levels of fealthy heirarchy, assenting to Tradition, with Church standing to discipline, foregoing every appearance of lax morals or teaching, say, for instance, in the distribution of The Most Blessed Sacrament, to souls manifestly in grave sin. I think our “renewed” sisters (brothers) would bristle at the idea that their movement, which draws it’s genesis from a Pentecostal (woman) “pastor” in the late 19th century, and drew similarly, decades later, from the post V-2 “spirit”, which saw those six troubled 60’s-era Duquesne youth, accept the “spirit,” from yet another woman pastor,(And, tangentially, I give you..Why the medjugorge demon, perpetuating the most-notorious Marian Sacrilege ever, some 30+ years now, has so many nice things, among the false prophecies, disobedient Franciscans, and money-making clerics and dioceses that know better, to say about such ecumaniacal “renewal”?) throwing off all percieved Traditional yokes and allowing for many other vain and sacriligious “searching”, and, among other abominable things, seeming to render The Sacrament of Confirmation meaningless, while testifying to the endless phenomena associated with the “renewed” practice, which always bares an uncanny resemblance to demonic possesion. Or imagine the USCCB venom at having a loyal, faithful lay remnant holding them accountable, with authority to strip power, funds, and prestige ( almost the lay equivalent of “collegiality”, a novel invention of V-2, which essentially strips The Bark of Peter of most of his DISCIPLINARY bite..) in response to the kind of grave institutional, decades-long errors (and subsequent lost souls?) given us by the Bernadin, Mahoney, Weakland, or u-pick-the-facile-or-effeminate-American-Bishop of the week club! We don’t do things that invite confusion, create divisions, or empower the diabolical intellects of the secularists! Instead, we marshall all energies and efforts at rescuing, resuscitating, and rehabilitating the First Church, the one, properly instituted, the Catholic Church, must learn from, firstly..The Family..where the complimentary charisms of authentic masculinity and femininity, cooperate with The Most High, in creating, nurturing, loving, providing for, and protecting the progeny of every worthwhile effort..The Child..and, to the point of martyrdom..the ever-child-like quality of the soul, so easily bruised and beaten by the neglect of those who seek concession and compromise with the flesh, the world, and the not-nearly-cursed enough..JMJ =+)

    • Mark Shea

      Fascinating to watch the freak out over this stuff. It really taps a deep nerve, don’t it. Clear your throat and say, “It’s possible to have a female cardinal” and suddenly we are off and running with a massive itinerary of every litany of demons and horrors and enemies and conspiracy. Reminds me of Captain Queeg and the strawberry monologue.

      • Joseph

        With apologies to certain naive strawberry captains and their new advent-eers..What is numbing is the inattention to certain agendas proceeding from the unartful window-openings (smashings?) of 50 years ago. An agenda that might have bore mentioning. What is grating is the constant accomodation some Peter-Pan Princes of The Church make with Caesar (We are in such needs of Ecclessial Knights today!, Though, not imagined ones!) and then bemoan the Goverments demand of services and loyalty for the 30 pieces of silver it pays annually in the way of Catholic Charities funding (2/3 annually comes from Washington each year. The “drive that never fails” is already 2/3 there when the campaign begins..). The liberal Leviathan that the USCCB has lied down with all these years so their offspring (Kennedy, Pelosi, Biden, etc..) can retrieve for them tokens from the goverment trough has permitted abortion, sodomy, and soon euthanasia, to be shown only sophist semantics, and not the kind of energy killing children, teaching children to accept sodomy, and being silent, again, when Obamacares decides to off old people past 70 who will only recieve “palliative care” we have recently learned, i.e., If you’re sick and past 70, you’ll only get pain medication. Grandma and Grandpa won’t get treated, they’ll just become morphine addicts! The Heirarchy knows that 70 is only the beginning of that number being shaved incrementally each year, but, shhhhhhhhh, you might make the temple-priests angry! Who shall provide us silver then? So we don’t need 60’s flower-children and media-savvy clerics waxing poetically about issues that assuage their consciences or make nice with the feminiazi hordes in their chanceries..What we need, in NYC, is every religous leader there thinking, how do I stop 2/3 of all pregnancies and 80% of all black children concieved today..FROM BEING SLAUGHTERED IN THE WOMB! And NOT ONE OTHER MATTER until such time that no baby is threatened again, in a like manner…If that happened..Man, would I be fascinated,,,Mr. Queeg, too! JMJ =+)

        • Mark Shea

          Yes. Well. Enough of that. Go get some anger management therapy. Don’t need rageaholics in my comboxes vomiting all their issues because I happened to hit a psychic trigger with a (to me) mildly interesting bit of speculation about a trivial piece of administrative housekeeping. If you need to burp up all your choler over everything, go start your own blog. Don’t need more insults on mine. Thank you for your attention. Your Naive Strawberry Captain, on behalf of all my lickspittle New Adventeers.

      • degu

        Can you say anything that isn’t completely arrogant and snide?

        • Mark Shea

          Yes. Can you say anything that isn’t cowardly and accusatory, O anonymous one?

  • LRoy

    Since cardinals are usually priests they have to be male. Cardinals vote the next pope who also has to be male. Also Cardinals are usually bishops and they have to be male. How do you propose to go around this maleness? It’s not going to happen, people.

    • Mark Shea

      Offhand, I’d say it could be done by changing the rule that a cardinal has to be a member of the clergy–which is my, Dolan’s, and Groeschel’s point. There’s no eternal law that cardinals must be ordained. Therefore, a cardinal could be a lay woman as well a lay man, if the Church chose to do so. I have no crystal ball for knowing whether it will or will not happen. But if it does happen, those who are sternly prophesying that it will never happen should really decide in their minds now not to freak out. Because if they do, they will be creating a crisis where none exists because they foolishly elevated a tradition of men to a Tradition of God.