Should women be made Cardinals?

I had a most interesting conversation last week with an academic and a priest about the role of women in the Catholic Church.  The priest is a friend who is generally conservative on a whole range of issues from liturgy to the life issues. The academic might be on the more liberal side of the Catholic spectrum.  Anyway, both of them seemed to agree the Catholic Church did not do a good job in integrating women into leadership at the highest levels.  No, they were not arguing for women’s ordination.  But they did suggest women could be made Cardinals.  One of them (or both?) said maybe if women had been in leadership the sexual abuse scandals would not have happened.  To which I confess, I must have snorted in, “oh yeah!” disbelief.

They mentioned out Benedict had named a woman a Doctor of the Church, and asked, why don’t women who are alive get recognized?

Whenever I think of calls for women in leadership in the Church, I shudder, because usually the women envisioned as candidates are dissenters.   I think of women in leadership and I think of the Episcopal Church.  And I also think of different kinds of leadership—-like that I exercise as a journalist.  It’s an apostolate, but out in the world, where lay people should be exercising their ministry.   In my encounters with bishops I have never felt patronized or treated as if I am inferior or that my insights are unwelcome.

So, what do you think of the idea of women as Cardinals?  And if you were to suggest which women got a red hat, who would you like to see?

At Church on Sunday, I talked with some of my women friends about this and we were in agreement that we like patriarchy.   The real Boaz-style patriarchy where men take leadership and responsibility and exercise it with the idea of serving those they lead.

We agreed that if women step in to take over, men will willingly give up responsibility and leadership and let the women do it all.  Which is happening to an alarming extent already in many parishes where women run the show.  And it starts with girls being allowed to be altar servers, and women as EMHCs.  We do not approve.

I have natural leadership abilities.  I am assertive, confident and have been in positions of leadership over men from time to time in my career as a television producer and communications officer.  I have also led prayer groups.   But in the latter case, when there were men who could have done it, but who waited for me to do the hard work of getting things going, I did not like it.  I found by my doing it, I was getting in the way of their spiritual growth by performing what they were perfectly capable of doing.

So, your thoughts?

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14 Responses to Should women be made Cardinals?

  1. BCCatholic says:

    Presumably the women in your congregation are all over 60. I think that younger women today grow up in an environment where issues of men’s and women’s roles are much less meaningful.

  2. Foolishness says:

    No, not all over sixty! Though probably the women involved in this conversation were. But many of us were on the vanguard of the sexual revolution that made it possible for women to have the kinds of choices they have now. And many, like myself, have had professional careers outside the home. However, I am disturbed by the trend towards “unisex” and the fact that “issues of men’s an women’s roles [being] much less meaningful” in the sense that our objective, God-given sexual natures as men and women are being glossed over, treated as if they are not an integral part of our identity as created in God’s image, male and female. Much of the sexual revolution has sold women a bill of goods—we “can have it all” but then where are the men who are willing to sacrifice and stick around to be fathers? More and more women are succeeding in university; men are dropping out and playing video games and viewing porn instead of marrying.

    Women feel they must have careers and be independent “just in case” they end up divorced and having to support themselves and their off spring. I am not saying we must return to women being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen as some kind of legalistic thing—-but when I look around to see the marriages that seem to be the most deeply committed, I also see lots of children as the fruit of this, and a stay at home mom who is secure in the love of her husband, and who knows he is a good, sacrificial father. Sadly, this whole notion of the importance of family is being lost and educated women turn their kids over to caregivers, often poor women who have left their own children at home in the Philippines or Jamaica, so they have been self-fulfilled in a high powered career. The younger women who look at what the priests are doing and feel left out because they have been immersed in the unisex, gender theory ethos (it’s all a social construct!) need to learn what we old gals have learned the hard way and benefit from our insights rather than repeat some of our mistakes.

  3. BCCatholic says:

    A stay at home mother with a large family is a rare bird in this day and age, so if she is happy it may be because she is a special type of person, and married to a special type of person. Back in the days when this lifestyle was the norm there were plenty of unhappy, unfulfilled, exploited women married to selfish, thoughtless men.

  4. Foolishness says:

    True. Certainly there are elements of our sexual identities and roles that are social constructs; there are elements that are biological and hardwired. If we made a Venn Diagram, I am comfortable in the area where the circle of “social construct” overlaps “nature” and uncomfortable when society swings into the outer edges of either circle to biological determinism on one hand and total gender theory subjectivism on the other.

    Sadly, we have lurched from one extreme to another.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Deborah,

      You wrote: If we made a Venn Diagram, I am comfortable in the area where the circle of “social construct” overlaps “nature” and uncomfortable when society swings into the outer edges of either circle to biological determinism on one hand and total gender theory subjectivism on the other.

      Unfortunately, biological determinism of which you write is simply the logical consequence of any metaphysical theory that implies determinism. Although rigorously disproven by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle about two and a half millennia ago, many individuals who are ignorant of classical philosphy errantly attempt to extrapolate the deterministic character of the physical sciences to biological and metaphysical reality — with the consequence that determinism keeps resurrecting from its ashes like the phoenix, but in new disguises, whenever the latest disguise gets shredded and burned. The cure for this, of course, is to incorporate classical philosophy into our schools as a major subject of study — but please don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen!

      Norm.

  5. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    You wrote: One of them (or both?) said maybe if women had been in leadership the sexual abuse scandals would not have happened. To which I confess, I must have snorted in, “oh yeah!” disbelief.

    I’m with you completely on this. Female executives in major corporations have had their share of scandalous miscues, too.

    You asked: So, what do you think of the idea of women as Cardinals? And if you were to suggest which women got a red hat, who would you like to see?

    The cardinals are titular clergy of the Diocese of Rome (excepting the cardinal bishops, who are titular bishops of the suffragan sees of the Province of Rome and the actual patriarchs or major archbishops, as applicable, of the sui juris ritual churches), so conferring “red hats” on laity, whether male or female, would be problematic at best. Thus, naming women as cardinals comes back to the issue of ordination of women.

    But having said that, a couple decades ago, an ordained monk remarked when asked about the subject during a class: “If you want to see the most compelling argument against ordination of women, look at the women who are demanding to be ordained. They embody the worst of everything that’s wrong with the men. They are more clerical than the men are!”

    Ouch!

    Norm.

    • While many of the cardinals are, as Norm pointed out, titular bishops and pastors of Roman dioceses and parishes, not all are. There have been lay cardinals in the past. The core of the college of cardinals will always be the representatives of the suburbican dioceses of Rome, the principal parishes and the 7 Roman deacons. But cardinals are drawn from all over the world, precisely to make use of the diverse talents and viewpoints in advising the Pope.

      There are many roles which women could fulfill in the service of the Church. Just as in civil society, they are under-represented, but there are many reasons for that. However, even in the Vatican women have been called to leadership roles, such as Mary Ann Glendon, who became the first female President of the Church’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences; she was also the Vatican’s representative to the UN’s 1995 Beijing Conference on Women (see wikipedia for information on MAG).

      • William Tighe says:

        Sorry, Steve, but, as I explained below, there never has been any such thing as a “lay cardinal,” properly speaking.

  6. Pingback: Should women be made Cardinals? | Catholic Canada

  7. William Tighe says:

    I think that this is a silly proposal. Originally, the cardinals were either the priests and deacons of significant Roman churches, or else the bishops of certain “satellite” sees in the region surrounding Rome. Even those “layman” cardinals of which we hear from time to time were not really “laymen,” but men who had entered “the clerical state” by being tonsured:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lay_cardinal

    Since women can’t “enter th clerical state,” which now, in the Latin Church, happens when a man is ordained to the diaconate, they can’t become cardinals, either.

  8. Foolishness says:

    As much as I do not think women should enter the clerical state, it still does bother me a little upon having seen video of some events involving clergy in Rome and all you see of women are the religious sisters who are clearing plates off the tables, cooking, and cleaning. That said, I am not asking that women now be seated at tables while men do the menial work but the optics are bad when the only visible role women seem to play in the Vatican, with some exceptions, have to do with menial work.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Deborah,

      You wrote: As much as I do not think women should enter the clerical state, it still does bother me a little upon having seen video of some events involving clergy in Rome and all you see of women are the religious sisters who are clearing plates off the tables, cooking, and cleaning.

      Women who hold pontifical degrees are now serving as “consultors” (subject matter experts) for the various congregations of the Roman Curia, as members and staff of the Vatican’s tribunals, and there are also women serving in various administrative capacities in the Vatican. Unfortunately, the major media rarely mention their presence because it does not fit the image of the Vatican as a “men’s club” that the major media wishes to portray.

      Norm.

  9. Humphrey Cobbler says:

    The great question with all of this is of complimentarity. Biologically speaking, we have fathers and mothers. They are profoundly different roles – I would never confuse my mother with my father. However, there is a correspondence between the two – they go together.

    Is there a way that the Church, while avoiding any confusion about the matter of Holy Orders (which are masculine in character), could create an equivalent and complimentary role to the Cardinalate, which could honour women who head certain orders of sisters, or who hold prominent positions in the Vatican. Something along the lines of what happened historically with some monastaries, which had mitred abbesses?

    In effect, could we subvert the issue, and propose an alternate vision of women in church leadership, which is Orthodox in character – providing the church with some ways of recognizing the ministry of women that do not undermine the sacrament of Holy Orders?

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Humphrey,

      You wrote: Something along the lines of what happened historically with some monastaries, which had mitred abbesses?

      Abbeys of women still have abbesses, who are still entitled to pontifical insignia — including the mitre and crosier — because pointifical insignia are a symbol of authority of governance.

      What has changed in recent decades, however, is that it is now very uncommon for communities of women to be canonically erected as abbeys. Only an abbey can have an abbot or abbess.

      Norm.

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