The Francis Effect™ and The Silly Season

More symptoms of The Francis Effect™.

Now that we have the most wonderfullest and fluffiest Pope ehvur, people’s true colors seem to be emerging.  It is as if they are rushing to prove the old adage: Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses.

But that usually isn’t the problem for people who write on Catholic issues at the Religion News Service, this time in cahoots with WaPo.

Here is a sample of a loopy piece, not because it is news you need to know, but because it has good examples of the idiocy spawned by TFE.  To be fair, this may simply be a matter of filing something on a slow news day.

Watch what happens.

RNS () — Could a woman vote for the next pope?

Pope Francis has said repeatedly that he wants to see greater roles for women in the Catholic Church, and some argue that he could take a giant step in that direction by appointing women to the College of Cardinals — the select and (so far) all-male club of “Princes of the Church” that casts secret ballots in a conclave to elect a new pope.

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. [So, an ex-priest writes about this and its off to the races.  That’s a joke.] It’s something that Pope Francis has thought about before: naming a woman cardinal.” [I’ve thought about buying a Bugatti Veyron.  Hey!  I’m serious! I really have!]

Arias quoted an unnamed priest [Yes, it does get better.  The ex-priest quotes an unknown 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.  [That’s true enough.]

In the U.S., the Rev. James Keenan, a fellow Jesuit [I was pretty sick of Jesuits before this pontificate.  But now….] and a well-regarded moral theologian at Boston College, started a post on his Facebook page soliciting nominees for the first female cardinal. [Because petitions from liberal Jesuits on Facebook is how the Church’s laws are shaped.] Keenan said he wrote the post mainly as a way to recognize the many women who would be “great candidates.” [Just imagine…] 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.


Blah blah blah.

Gibson, the writer, goes on to add some BS about the Borgias, because the topic lacked only that.

It is the silly season, my friends.  Make popcorn and try not to let it get under your skin.

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  1. pmullane says:

    The kind of idiot thinking that decides we should have a female Cardinal and then goes to find a female to make Cardinal is the kind of idiot thinking that ends up electing Barack Obama.

  2. Traditium says:

    I recall reading how Benedict watched the media reporting of VII, and how different it was than the council and its documents. Thus was born the spirit thereof. It seems to me that a review of what you say and how it might be misinterpreted (deliberately and/or not) should be a part of the institutional memory. Then this sort of wackiness would not occur. What am I missing here?

  3. Midwest St. Michael says:

    The topic of the possibility of a female cardinal was brought up *twice* (at least that I am aware of) on a live program on EWTN a couple of years ago.

    The host, a religious who was dismissed from the network over another matter, mentioned the possiblity of a woman being elected to the college of cardinals – and supposedly canon law does not prohibit it – to the archbishop/cardinal of his own archdiocese.

    The archbishop/cardinal replied something to the affect of, “Yes! Isn’t that interesting, Father So-and-so?”



  4. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Tradtitium wrote: “It seems to me that a review of what you say and how it might be misinterpreted . . . should be a part of the institutional memory. Then this sort of wackiness would not occur. What am I missing here?”

    Tradtitium, theoretically things should work in the way that you describe, and I’m with you; I wish they would, but at times, institutions, including the institutional Church, are plagued by the bureaucratic versions of Murphy’s Law, some of which have been enumerated as follows:

    Grossman’s Misquote: Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers.
    Freeman’s Law: Nothing is so simple it cannot be misunderstood.
    Fried’s Law: Ideas endure and prosper in inverse proportion to their soundness and validity.

    And last but not least:

    Epstein’s Law: If you think the problem is bad now, just wait until we’ve solved it.

    Human reason and human means alone can and often do fail, but with the grace of God, the Church can be governed in a holy manner.

  5. polycarped says:

    I know the spelling is ever so slightly different – but it did make me smile that the rebellious ex-priest’s name is Arias…

  6. Long-Skirts says:

    It’s “Shag” week at this lovely Jesuit College, Heythrop…keep smiling everyone!

  7. JonPatrick says:

    I thought that Canon law now requires that a Cardinal be at least a priest (Canon 351 of the 1983 code) and is furthermore elevated to bishop at the time of his appointment. That would seem to rule out women – Ordinatio Sacerdotalis would then apply.

    Canon 351 – “The Roman Pontiff freely selects men to be promoted as cardinals, who have been ordained at least into the order of the presbyterate [i.e., priest] and are especially outstanding in doctrine, morals, piety, and prudence in action; those who are not yet bishops must receive episcopal consecration [i.e., consecrated as a bishop].”

  8. Deusetmealux says:

    “Mejor reír que llorar” they say in spanish (better to laugh than to cry).
    I guess that would apply in this case and in many others these days.
    But the case of shag week at Heythrop I find impossible to laugh about.

  9. Quas Primas says:

    But this smacks of the “female machismo” that Pope Francis has rightly critiqued!

    A point also made by Andrea Tornielli:

  10. robtbrown says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae,

    We should also add the Peter Principle.

  11. robtbrown says:

    The Jesuits have assiduously worked for the destruction of their own order and consequently have wounded the Church. Now it seems they want to complete their project.

  12. DavidJ says:

    If Canon Law were changed and ordination was not a prerequisite for being named a cardinal, I would not have any problem with female Cardinals. Being a Cardinal isn’t a Sacrament or intrinsically tied to ordination, it’s an honorific. Would it be a change? Sure. Are there arguments against it? Sure. I can’t say that I’m completely opposed to it.

  13. robtbrown says:

    It seems that there is going to be a bit of a free for all in the Church. It’s not only the liberal Jesuits and others coming out of hiding. Recently, Cardinal Cipriani of Peru said that Abp Mueller’s infatuation with Liberation Theology is a bit naive.

    If there is going to be a fight, maybe it’s not a bad idea.

  14. Robbie says:

    This may be a crude comparison, but these stories about the Jesuits remind me of what took place with the MB in Egypt. After decades of punishment, they finally got their chance to rule when Morsi was elected. In the twelve months that followed, they governed so poorly that almost the entire country took to the streets against them. Now, most believe the MB will never get another chance because of how terribly they ruled.

    Now before anyone raises any howls, I’m not comparing the Pope to the MB. I’m just noting that the Jesuits are now out in full force and suggesting some things that are just contrary to 2000 years of the Church. A woman Cardinal? And let’s not forget Father’s Reese and Martin. Father Reese proudly posts of a picture of himself with Obama and Biden on his Twitter page while Father Martin said if finally fun to be Catholic again.

    The Jesuits are, in many ways, in control of the Church thanks to the election of Bergoglio. So like it or not, their near future probably rests on how well things go. Already though, some have said the Pope has ensured we won’t see another Jesuit in the papacy for a long, long time. My point is if the Jesuits continue to offer, say, and do crazy things, their order could be wounded for a long time if they and the Pope end up widening the divide.

  15. Stephen Matthew says:

    What exactly would they be cardinal of?

    Cardinal Deacons are the arch-deacons appointed to oversee certain churches in Rome associated with the poor, etc.
    Cardinal Priests are the arch-priests appointed to oversee major churches in Rome.
    Cardinal Bishops are the archbishops of the suburban diocese around Rome.

    This is an outgrowth of the early method of papal election where the principal local clergy or the city of Rome and the neighbouring bishops elected the new bishop of Rome. Those positions were once far more about the day to day pastoral responsibilities with the election of the pope being a secondary matter. Today many of the cardinals only serve in Rome in a titutal capacity and are mostly members of the college. Yet, like titular bishops, they must be cardinal of something or somewhere in the traditional order of things. While it is now customary to elevate all cardinals to the episcopacy, originally their standing in Holy Orders would have been just what the titles indicate: some bishops, some priests, and some deacons.

    Where in that scheme does a woman, or any lay person, even a religious, fit?

    I suppose a reform of the college could be done, or even the creation of some other college that contains lay persons. There is precedent for the lay faithful to have some role in the selection (or at least in acclaiming) the bishop of a place, so there is some theoretical grounds for speculation, unlikely though it is. In any case, at the very least a new set of titles would be required that did not carry the idea of the clerical state and holy orders, and new forms of insignia and dress that likewise avoided that appearance.

    If some major reform of the college were to actually happen, I think it would be far more fitting (and likely) that we should see the inclusion of some number of (more or less) ordinary priests and deacons in its number (that could also go with a pairing down of handing out bishops miters for curial careerists, those postings involving care of souls could logically be held by priests, those involving the church’s temporal goods would seem obvious posts for deacons).

    I think we shall see a married permanent deacon added to the college many centuries before anyone seriously considers adding women.

  16. Paul M. says:

    Whenever this topic comes up, it seems that the proponents of the idea fail to make the important distinction between the function of electing the Roman Pontiff and the nature of membership in the College of Cardinals.

    The College of Cardinals evolved from the principal clergy of the Church of Rome and the suffragans of the Province of Rome, as these were the closest collaborators with the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his ministry. Even the so-called “lay cardinals” of history were in fact tonsured clergy in at least minor orders. Thus, by its very nature, the College of Cardinals is a clerical body. It does not make sense for laity, male or female, to be part of a college of clergy.

    Sure, it is theologically possible for the election of the Roman Pontiff to be entrusted to a group that consists of laity. But that is a very different point than the, I think, incorrect assertion that a layperson can become members of the College of Cardinals without doing violence to the nature and history of the college.

  17. Magash says:

    While this is prohibited by Canon Law I see no theological reason for prohibiting it. On the other hand considering the external pressures that are being brought upon the Church to open to women areas which have theologically base prohibitions it would be likely to cause undo confusions among the faithful to make any changes to this policy now. I would be incline to let things stay as they are for an additional couple hundred years. At that time it might be possible, provided that there has been raised by that time a properly catechized laity, to discuss this change. We can talk about non-clerical woman deacons at the same time.

  18. Paul M. says:

    I see that Stephen Matthew beat me to the punch for the thrust of my argument., However, I would still hold that reforming the college would not make sense and that, instead, some other body would need to be put in place for the election of the Roman Pontiff if the laity were to participate along with clergy.

  19. pseudomodo says:

    This would really be something!

    The College of Cardinals – Ladies Auxilliary. Princesses of the Catholic Church.

    And in the future when all the Cardinals are women, who would they choose to be Pope?


    …no really….hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!

  20. acricketchirps says:

    I’m still against women’s suffrage so I don’t need to tell you how I come down on this.

  21. Amy Giglio says:

    Funny, you don’t usually see this sort of codswallop ’til Lent. Can’t imagine what will roll out then.

  22. NickD says:

    Amy, Matt Archbold thought about the same thing a little while back upon reporting this:

    “Silly Season,” indeed.

  23. robtbrown says:

    Magash says:

    While this is prohibited by Canon Law I see no theological reason for prohibiting it.

    Some good theological reasons were given above.

  24. Angie Mcs says:

    “Knowing this pope, he wouldn’t hesitate…”

    Really? Does anyone ” know” this Pope?

  25. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    “In the U.S., the Rev. James Keenan, a fellow Jesuit and a well-regarded moral theologian at Boston College…” The Rev. James Keenan testified before the Massachusetts legislature in favor of same-sex marriage, if I recall correctly (here’s a link from a Google search:

    There is a reason BC is called “Barely Catholic” in the Bay State.

  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Women have traditionally had plenty of influence on papal elections.

    Good way: Be friends with a lot of cardinals. Hold parties. Chat about your preferred papabili.

    Not too good way: Be a head of state or a rich noble with influence. Hold parties. Offer goodies. Tell your cardinals who to vote for.

    Bad way: Be really corrupt and bribe everybody outright. Blackmail the others. Kill the rest. Or if it’s really early, and the Roman populace votes for the Pope by acclaim, just bribe the whole populace that’s bribeable and don’t let the others near the vote. (The only time this seems to have worked was when Rome was running on empty during the bad bad parts of the early Middle Ages.)

    Bad way: Sleep around in an influential way. Then blackmail people.

  27. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Honestly, though, most of the time when there was skulduggery, it seems like there was so much skulduggery that the devious canceled out each other. Cardinals just having their own ideas, likes, and dislikes are much more influential over the long course of papal history.

  28. Saint1106 says:

    There were rumors in the days of Paul VI that he wanted to nominate the philosopher Jacques Maritain to the College of Cardinals.
    Broader issue right now is what will become of the Synod of Bishops? How will it evolve under Francis?
    Talk about women cardinals misses the point. Governance of the church rests with the episcopacy or the college of bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome. We should all remember in our prayers the consultative group of Cardinals appointed by Pope Francis.

  29. AvantiBev says:

    What is really SILLY is that for 40+ years I have been hearing that I should support women priests in the sacred world and this or that woman candidate in the secular world because they would REPRESENT me. And why? Well, it was all based on indoor PLUMBING if you know what I mean. I AM a LADY, but I am NOT my lady parts. I am far too complicated, thank the True God who made me.

  30. TimG says:

    Not to go down a rabbit hold, but any time I hear Boston College (or any other (c)atholic university mentioned)….I remember the following quote from Peter Kreeft;

    When people ask me the question about how Catholic BC is, I like to say that it’s Catholic enough to feel like my home but at the same time pagan enough to feel like a mission field.

  31. netokor says:

    Deusetmealux says, “Mejor reír que llorar” they say in spanish (better to laugh than to cry).

    We also have, “Ya ni llorar es bueno” (right now any crying is useless).

    And now my own, “Mejor tomarse tres tequilas, fumarse un buen puro y olvidarse de estos líos.”

    No translation, kids. This is your Spanish homework.

  32. RobW says:

    Lol…I look forward to them red letters…daily.

  33. Michael_Thoma says:

    I mentioned this as a possibility about 10 years ago while studying theology. I’m glad my ideas are filtering into the Vatican, a decade late. It’s an easy way to shut the left up, while not giving one inch. Imagine if there were Cardinal Laity – no jurisdiction, only one vote per person representing the Catholic faithful of some or other category – Sui Iuris Church, Ordinariate, Nation etc. This “lay elector” idea is already practiced by some of the Orthodox Churches for selection of their bishops/Patriarchs.

  34. Assuming for a moment that such a thing were possible, like the square root of -1, the only problem is that the most qualified women are precisely the sort who would not accept the appointment because it just wouldn’t be right. Conversely, the only ones who would accept would likely be the ones looking to bring more devastation to an already battered Church.

  35. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Among many, many interesting details in Johannes Baptist Sägmüller’s 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia article are “for the cardinal-deacons it suffices to have entered on the twenty-second year; but the new cardinal-deacon must receive deacon’s orders within a year, otherwise he loses both passive and active vote” and “By virtue of canonical obedience the pope could compel an unwilling person to accept the cardinalitial dignity.”

    In his 1909 article on “The Gallican Rite”, Henry Jenner says, ” In the ordination of deacons there is a form which is found in the Byzantine Rite, but has not been adopted in the Roman, the recognition by the people, after an address, with the cry of “Dignus est!”. This is used for priests and bishops also (cf. Axios, in the Byzantine ordinations).”

    What is the history of the participation – or not – of women among “the people” in this?

  36. Matthew K says:

    At a recent “Families In Faith” gathering in my parish the catechist introduced a very sweet young girl who assists at Vacation Bible School as “Someone who I think will be Pope someday. Pope Francis is making changes and she may be the first female Pope.”


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