Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Old Order Passes

I wrote in a recent entry that there is no reason that the College of Cardinals could not include women.  That provoked a rash of responses telling me just why the Sacred College is limited to men and that only demonstrates that the issue of admitting women to Sacred Orders in the Catholic Church is not a theological matter but is driven by a fear of allowing women access to power.  There may or may not be theological reasons not to ordain women,  Speaking as a historian, I am not convinced of theological reasons.  I think that poor theology is being used to mask blatant misogyny.  I say this because whatever the reasons that may or may not be valid for ordaining women there is absolutely no theological reason why women cannot be created Cardinals and entrusted with major administrative responsibilities in the Church.  The College of Cardinals is totally a matter of man-made (and I am using that in a gender specific way) traditions. 
The modern role of the Cardinals developed in the eleventh century from the principal clergy of the Diocese of Rome.  The Cardinal Priests were the pastors of the principal parish churches in the city.  The Cardinal Deacons were the deacons of the principal diaconal churches of the city.  The diaconal churches were not parishes but were centers where people could come for food and other social services in times of famine or need.  You notice that I keep using the word “principal”—that is actually a good translation for the word cardinal.  Cardinal comes from the Latin “cardo,” the word for “hinge.”  A hinge is a crucial element because doors swing open and shut on the hinge.  There are also Cardinal bishops—they are the titular bishops of the seven ancient dioceses that surrounded the city of Rome—Ostia, Porto Santo Rufino, Sabina-Poggio Mirteto, Velletri-Segni, Frascati, and Palestrina. 
Today cardinals still break down into Cardinal Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.  Each Cardinal carries the title of Bishop of a suburbican see, or priest of a particular church, or deacon of a particular diaconal church.  And today, by canon law, a Cardinal must be a priest and unless he has a papal dispensation, must be or become a bishop.  But these are human regulations.  The last cardinal not to be a priest died in 1899.  Teodolfo Mertel was a layman when created Cardinal by Pius IX in 1859 and two months later was ordained deacon so that he could have his titular church. He never advanced to the priesthood. 
There were throughout the history of the Sacred College a number of Cardinals who never received major orders and remained laymen their entire lives.  Since the College of Cardinals is entirely of Church design and not a matter of divine law, there can be no theological reason why it cannot be structured to admit women.  And there are certainly women in the Church who would bring honor to the College.  As honor is somewhat in need of being restored to Church institutions these days that may not be such a bad idea.  There is Lesley-Anne Knight who served as general secretary of Caritas International.  She would be great in the Sacred College.  Mary Ann Glendon is a respected legal scholar who is certainly conservative enough to please the most loyal Vatican enthusiast and yet has demonstrated a noteworthy intellectual ability that would raise the collective IQ of the Sacred College.  While Sisters Simone Campbell or Joan Chittester might be a bit too radical for some (though not for me) and unfortunately Elizabeth Johnson is probably out of the running for the same reasons,  Patricia McDermott, President of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, has demonstrated good leadership and excellent administrative skills that could be put at the service of the larger Church.  Dr. Mary Lyons, president of the University of San Diego would be another great addition.  I wish I knew more about the Church in some other parts of the globe to be familiar with women from Latin America or Africa or Asia who might make this sort of contribution.  (Lesley-Anne Knight is, of course, from Africa, but I do not know any others.)  But I think it is time that cardinal’s robes came in a feminine cut as well as a masculine.  Well, actually, when I look at the brussels lace, I am  not sure they do come in a masculine tailoring.  Let me put it this way, if the guys think they look good in all that red, think how smashing the ladies will be.             
There has been some talk about this conclave turning to an American for Pope.  Given the complexity of world politics and the Church’s need to keep its neutrality highly visible, I would not have thought of the possibility of an American Pope, but reports from Rome are that the talk is genuine.  Three Americans are being looked at—I still think they are longshots—as possible men for the task: Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston, Timothy Dolan of New York and Donald Wuerl of Washington.  Their (still remote) likelihood is given in that order. 
Well this is as far as I got before my brother telephoned to tell me that there was white smoke and I went to the television and everything began to unfold.  An Argentine—and a Jesuit!  The first Jesuit pope!  And the name Francis—boy does that say a lot.  Moreover in making his apperanceon the balcony he had refused the Master of Ceremonies’ “invitation” to wear the velvet fur-lined mozetta and he kept his simple silver cross around his neck.  He is sending signals about not only a new sheriff but a new style in the Vatican.  Hmm.  More soon.
p.s. Chris--sorry you lost out on ballot 9 in the lottery.  I would have thought you had the ideal number but what do I know?

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