Could a woman vote for the next pope?—UPDATED

Could a woman vote for the next pope?—UPDATED October 17, 2013

The notion of Pope Francis naming a woman cardinal is gaining more currency—though it’s hard to tell who, exactly, is spreading the idea.

David Gibson from the Religion News Service has a closer look: 

Whether it’s even possible is a matter of debate. But that hasn’t stopped the feverish speculation, which was sparked last month by an article in a Spanish newspaper in which Juan Arias, a former priest who writes from Brazil, wrote that the idea “is not a joke. It’s something that Pope Francis has thought about before: naming a woman cardinal.”

Arias quoted an unnamed priest — a Jesuit, like Francis — who said: “Knowing this pope, he wouldn’t hesitate before appointing a woman cardinal. … And he would indeed enjoy being the first pope to allow women to participate in the selection of a new pontiff.”

That was enough to start the ball rolling. The report was quickly picked up by Catholic media in Italy and then raced around a church that, in the months since Francis’ election, has been primed to expect the unexpected from this pope.

In the U.S., the Rev. James Keenan, a fellow Jesuit and a well-regarded moral theologian at Boston College, started a post on his Facebook page soliciting nominees for the first female cardinal. Keenan said he wrote the post mainly as a way to recognize the many women who would be “great candidates.” On his list: Linda Hogan, a professor of ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin; Sister Teresa Okure, a theology professor at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Nigeria; and Maryanne Loughry, associate director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Australia.

But Keenan is not the first to float the idea.

Just last year, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was asked during an interview on Catholic television whether a woman could be named a cardinal. Dolan agreed that it was “theoretically” possible, adding:

“You know, in fact, get this, and I’ve heard it from more than one person, that one time somebody said to Blessed John Paul II, ‘You should make Mother Teresa of Calcutta a cardinal.’ … And the pope said, ‘I asked her. She doesn’t want to be one.’”

So what’s to stop Francis from taking that step — assuming he finds a woman willing to say yes?

 Read on for the answer.

UPDATE: Elizabeth Scalia takes note of all this and says:

It’s not really a new discussion — I recall watching people duke it out over the subject almost fifteen years ago in a Catholic forum — but it is an interesting one. I think it would be a very good thing to have not just a few women, but some lay men included in the College of Cardinals, and if Popes Paul VI and John Paul II thought so too (as the legends go) then why gainsay it?

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