US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Is calling for women cardinals an act of clericalism?

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

In the past few months, there has been a lot of speculation and debate about the possibility of Pope Francis appointing the church's first female cardinal. Some have even tried to figure out what changes to church law would be needed to make it possible (removing ordination as a requirement for being a cardinal would be step one). The Vatican called the whole thing "nonsense." But what does Francis himself have to say?

Well, the Italian newspaper La Stampa asked the man himself in a new interview, resulting in the following exchange:

May I ask you if the Church will have women cardinals in the future?

“I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not 'clericalised'. Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”

Now that's an interesting take on the subject. I've heard people who want to have women as cardinals be accused of heresy, or just of wishful thinking, but never of clericalism.

I wonder, though, if it is also clericalism to assume cardinals must be ordained. Or is the act of clericalism assuming that top Vatican posts must be held by cardinals, or at least by priests and bishops? Is it clericalism to only allow cardinals a vote in choosing the pope? Is Francis only furthering the notion of clericalism by even naming cardinals in the first place?

I am not an advocate for women as cardinals, nor do I see it as a likely possibility in the near future. And I am with Francis on the idea of diminishing clericalism in the church and recognizing the value of lay women. But it is going to take a few changes in the hierarchy to convince Catholics that Francis is serious about deconstructing the clerical structure and giving significant voice to the laity, male and female alike.