This question was posted on an EWTN site…I never knew this after being a Catholic for 47 years. Learn something new everyday!
During the Homily last Sunday, the Priest started talking about the importance of women in the Church. He stated that women could not be priests or bishops but it is acceptable for them to be Cardinals. He then said that the Bishops were working on pushing women as Cardinals. Then he went on to say…“It’s only Church law afterall, not God’s law.” Are the Bishops really pushing this and is this Priest working AGAINST the Church? Regards,
Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 07-11-2007:
He is correct that the institution of cardinals is purely Church law. The pope could do away with cardinals altogether if he wanted to. And historically speaking, there were men who were not ordained who served as cardinals.
Now, however, canon law requires that cardinals also be bishops, although there is occasionally an exception make to this norm. For example, Father Avery Dulles was named as a cardinal but has remained as a priest. Still, Cardinal Dulles was named a cardinal after he was too old to vote to elect the pope.
I am not aware of any bishops pushing for this.
Regarding this priest, at least he is not advocating the ordination of women, which is a matter of doctrine. So it could be worse.
Let me made a few comments on the idea. First, historically speaking, the Church went through a huge battle to fight against control over the Church by secular authorities. This took different forms in different time periods – such as by lords and weathly landowners having power to appoint bishops in the middle ages and by the problem with lay trustees in the early history of the United States. In modern times, a similar problem exists in China with government appointed bishops. This restricts the freedom of the Church and the ability of bishops to govern the Church as successors to the apostles. This brings with it theological as well as practice problems by restricting the right of bishops to govern freely. Allowing lay persons (women or men) to serve as cardinals could reintroduce these problems. It also calls into question the authority of bishops to govern the Church. For this reason alone, I cannot see it happening. (It is hard to summarize deep theological issues of Church governance and historical problems that the Church has faced into a single paragraph.)
Second, lets look at the role of cardinals. They have two functions – to be advisors to the pope, and to elect a new pope in the event of the vacancy of the see of Rome. I don’t see a problem with laypersons (women or men) serving as advisors to the pope. In fact, many Vatican offices have woman religious or other lay persons serving in them. But the second role is more problematic since electing a pope could be seen as involing the exercise of the power of governance, and it is theologically debatable about whether this is appropriate.