What Francis says… what liberals hear…

Pope Francis says something like: “We need a deeper theology of women.”

What liberals hear: “The Pope is going to name women cardinals!”

That Francis might create females cardinals is patently absurd.

The cartoon, by the way, is from this week’s number of The Catholic Herald, the UK’s best Catholic weekly.  You can get the entire paper in digital format (avoid that pesky late postal delivery) and look at the entire archive by getting a subscription.  It is good for us in these USA to keep an eye across the pond.  They are farther along in the culture wars than we and their experiences should be object lessons to us.

And former-Father Greg Reynolds is still excommunicated.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I’m sure I’m not the first to suggest this, but you should re-embrace the acronym WDTPRS for the name of your blog, where now the “p” stands for POPE. The world needs it!

  2. dans0622 says:

    I noticed that the Pope addressed the officials of the Apostolic Signatura today and made some remarks about the importance of the defender of the bond in marriage nullity cases. Who would have thunk it–the Pope believes in the indissolubility of marriage and the essential role of the defender of the bond! Just read the mainstream media and you’d think he couldn’t care less.


  3. Peggy R says:

    And some Democrat “Catholics” in the IL legislature used the Holy Father’s words of compassion to justify normalizing homosexual relationships.


  4. wolfeken says:

    Based on most of the other words and actions we have heard and seen from this pope and the Vatican since March, I can’t really fault the liberals. They are hearing and seeing a lot of very liberal things from Francis and naturally exaggerating the indiputable trend.

    Sort of like what we did when we had a conservative pope from 2005 to earlier this year.

  5. wolfeken says:

    * indisputable

  6. SebastianHvD says:

    What’s the big deal with women-cardinals? I think knee-jerking on every conservative issue actually distracts from the things that are really nonnegotiable: The sacrament of priesthood, the indissolubility of marriage and the sanctity of life. If a mother Theresa or a Catherine of Siena is created a cardinal – “who am I to judge”? They’d make better cardinals than many of the present lot, that’s for sure.

  7. jhayes says:

    Fr. Lombardi says not in February, but it’s possible later:

    Responding to reports in Irish and Irish-American media that Pope Francis might name both TCD ecumenics Prof Linda Hogan and former president Mary McAleese as cardinals at a future conclave, senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said: “This is just nonsense . . . It is simply not a realistic possibility that Pope Francis will name women cardinals for the February consistory.

    “Theologically and theoretically, it is possible,” he added. “Being a cardinal is one of those roles in the church for which, theoretically, you do not have to be ordained but to move from there to suggesting the pope will name women cardinals for the next consistory is not remotely realistic.”

  8. LarryW2LJ says:

    I see a lot of “women Cardinals” as Winter approaches. They’re the ones at the feeder that are not quite as bright red as the “man Cardinals”, right? They love those sunflower seeds just as much, though!

  9. JKnott says:

    Sebastian said, ” If a mother Theresa or a Catherine of Siena is created a cardinal – “who am I to judge”? They’d make better cardinals than many of the present lot, that’s for sure.”

    Maybe not.
    One could argue that some saintly men might make better mothers but that is not what they are primarily called by God to be. The Church never made Mother Teresa or St Catherine of Siena cardinals for a good and supernatural reason. The liberal push for women in the hierarchy is based on the utilitarian non-virtue of political correctness. ,

  10. TWF says:

    I agree with SebastianHvD. While I don’t necessarily support the creation of “women cardinals”, I do think it is important to emphasize that the office of cardinal is an honorific created by the Church and need not be intrinsically linked to the sacrament of holy orders. There were “lay” male cardinals in the past, so the idea of a female cardinal is not theologically impossible. That being said, if women were created cardinals, I would hope that they would be orthodox, traditional Abbesses and Mother Superiors…not just random lay women “academics”.

  11. Paul M. says:

    “Theologically and theoretically, it is possible [for laypersons to be members of the College of Cardinals] . . . .”

    This seems to me to be the equivalent to saying that deacons and laity can serve on the Council of Priests. No, they can’t, without it becoming the Council of Priests and Persons That Aren’t Priests. Similarly, Father Lombardi’s theological and theoretical statement is possible only if the College of Cardinals ceases to be a college of Cardinals and becomes the College of Cardinals and Persons That Aren’t Cardinals.

    “What’s the big deal with women-cardinals?”

    It seems that a lot of people think that the definition of “cardinal” is “papal elector.” But that is just the present duty of a cardinal and not the definition of what a cardinal is, which is the principal clergy of the church and province of Rome. Understanding the distinction between what a cardinal is, as opposed to what a cardinal does, provides clarity into what the “big deal” is.

  12. Unwilling says:

    Verbal meaning, oral or written, is achieved through a collaboration between speaker/writer and hearer/reader. Most meaning is determined by the form or conventions of communication, much by context. And there, especially, both sides have responsibilities. Both!

    What do you expect?

  13. jhayes says:

    Bring on the clowns…

    “The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics donned a bright red nose and clowned around with a newlywed couple inside the Vatican on Wednesday.

    The Argentine-born pontiff posed with the bride and groom, who are volunteers at a charity that brings clown therapy to sick children.”

    Photo: http://abcnews.go.com/m/blogEntry?id=20830107

  14. frjim4321 says:

    If nothing else this pope has certainly raised the practice of being unpredictable to an art form. Being of a slightly more progressive bent than most other here, I would tend to favor the naming of a female cardinal; but I would certainly not predict it. Much of the improvements we have seen have been matters of style and not substance.

    That having been said, when the pope names his first cardinals, whoever they are, it will certainly be analyzed without end by a wide variety of “experts.” Must like the president nominating justices to the Supreme Court, the selection of cardinals by popes seems to be the primary way they can project their ideology and influence over the span of many generations.

    Thus, I look forward to the announcement of the next group of cardinals. I would not even attempt to predict who any of them may be. Though I suspect that any prelate well known for enjoying the good things in life a little bit too much might find themselves down the pecking order.

  15. frjim4321 says:

    = himself

  16. Robbie says:

    If Pope Francis does decide to name a woman a Cardinal, I hope he doesn’t wear the red clown nose he wore a few days ago when he hands out the red hat!!!

    All joking aside, I think the Pope is seriously considering naming a woman a Cardinal at some point. There are just too many stories that continue to pop up. I’m a firm believer in the saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. And if he were to do it, I think it would pave the way for women priests and women deacons.

    I say that because, if the Pope reigns for 15 years, his Cardinals will dominate the next conclave and most, if not all, will share his views. Given that, it may be likely they see female ordination as the next logical step. In my view, a female Cardinal is just a way for the progressive/modernist wing of the Church to get people familiar and comfortable with women priests without really having to discuss it.

    I doubt the Pope will make such a move, but I believe he’s considering it down the road.

  17. frjim4321 says:

    “I doubt the Pope will make such a move, but I believe he’s considering it down the road.”

    Robbie, I am not sure I agree, but I think if this pope is considering something, he’s not going to wait, he’s going to act. He does not seem to be one to wait to do things he knows he wants to do.

  18. annalisa says:

    Does The greg reynolds excommunication appaise you? How many liberal priests as Reynolds exist? [?!?] Chi si contenta gode …

  19. kpoterack says:

    “What’s the big deal with women-cardinals?”

    Cardinals have always been clerics. Even the handful of so-called “lay cardinals” of the past were men who had received the tonsure (which was considered the beginning of the clerical state back then) and had received one if not more of the minor orders. Thus, “lay cardinal” was a misnomer. Today the Church considers ordination to the diaconate the beginning of the clerical state, but back then you could be a “cleric” and not yet have been ordained to a major order.

    Anyway, today a cardinal is always a bishop or a priest who will be ordained to the episcopate. I believe there were only two exceptions, JP II honored DeLubac and von Balthasar (two priest-theologians) over the age of 80 by making them cardinals and exempted them from episcopal ordination.

    It would, therefore, be incredibly unwise and confusing to have true “lay cardinals” (men or women). If the pope wants to have close lay advisors, that would be one thing, it could be considered. However, calling them “cardinals” wouldn’t be advisable. This is a media fantasy.

  20. robtbrown says:

    Robbie says,

    All joking aside, I think the Pope is seriously considering naming a woman a Cardinal at some point. There are just too many stories that continue to pop up.

    Stories from where? Are they coming from the same people convinced that Angelo Scola would be elected?

    This pope’s first few months remind me of JPII’s. A relative unknown with a charismatic personality makes a perfect target for the charismatic = liberal myth propagated by the press.

  21. RidersOnTheStorm says:

    It is the silly season, my friends. Make popcorn and try not to let it get under your skin.
    – 18th October

    3 weeks later, braggadocio (like popcorn) gone – replaced with large hint of apprehensive exasperation:
    That Francis might create females cardinals is patently absurd.

    Fasten your seatbelts – high probability of spittle-flecked nutties ahead

  22. RafqasRoad says:

    Hmm…if Pope Francis does name lady cardinals, may they be chosen from the likes of Supertrad Mum, LongSkirts, and the many other awesome, faithful, tireless women who comment here, the likes of the amazing sisters affiliated with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in our inner city parts (who are prayerful and practical all at the same time – and yes, they ‘habit’, and the likes of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg!!! Liberal types out there, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it…

    If Christ sees one of the only ways forward through the darkness of our age to be one of appointing a ‘Mother Theresa’, ‘St. Theresa Benedicta (Dr. Edith Stein(,, ‘St Faustina’ or Sr. Lucia, or even a humble yet utterly faithful to Christ’s Word, His Church and its magisterium then…Christ used a woman at the well and a woman caught in adultery to both demonstrate his power of forgiveness and insistence that we move forward in Him to faithful , holy lives…in all cases ‘You are forgiven…now go and sin no more’…

    if the men are too timid to call out the darkness of this age, then lets see who Christ appoints to do it…only Nixon could go to China.

    Now let’s set about defending the unborn, the disabled and the aged from the machinations of a world who would have itself ‘liberated’ from such ‘burdens’…

    Oh, and as a layman can as far as I know be technically elevated to Cardinal as well…I vote for ‘the Chicken’!! how is he going? is he well? he has been silent of late and I’m growing concerned.


    Aussie Maronite, soon to be South Coast Catholic.

  23. Lin says:

    ” Must like the president nominating justices to the Supreme Court, the selection of cardinals by popes seems to be the primary way they can project their ideology and influence over the span of many generations.”

    It doesn’t seem to follow this time unless the cardinals selected by Benedict XVI were closet progressives? In any event, I cannot imagine Pope Francis creating female cardinals!!!!

  24. mamajen says:


    Not to mention how on earth did we end up with Benedict XVI from John Paul II’s crew?

    Personally, I can’t think of a compelling reason ever to have female cardinals, even if we can.

  25. mamajen says:


    The left just loves people like you. They can toss rumors around hoping something finally sticks, then make their popcorn and watch the other side rip each other to shreds. Or, alternatively, they hope if they spread the rumors enough, they’ll change public sentiment to a point that the other side just has to cave to it. I take it you don’t follow politics much?

    I actually agree with Fr. Jim’s sentiment (and have said before myself) that listening to rumors in the case of Pope Francis is particularly silly. He doesn’t seem to waste time when he’s made up his mind to do something, nor does he strike me as sneaky.

  26. bourgja says:

    The reason that Cardinals cannot be women is that they officially represent the clergy of Rome in the election of its bishop.

  27. Lori Pieper says:

    I don’t see a problem with lay men or women taking part in the papal election, if the part is properly understood. After all, both the clergy and laity of Rome and the surrounding region would take part in the papal elections in the earliest days of the Church.

    ‘St. Cyprian tells us in regard to the election of Pope St. Cornelius (251) that the comprovincial bishops, the clergy, and the people all took part in it: “He was made bishop by the decree of God and of His Church, by the testimony of nearly all the clergy, by the college of aged bishops [sacerdotum], and of good men”(Ep. Iv ad Anton., n. 8).’ (Catholic Encyclopedia 1913).

    Of course, you would have to check to see if the “men” was “viri” or “homines” – I suspect only the men would have voted in those days, but it would be different now! [Really? Why?]

    And of course, Gregory the Great was elected Pope by acclamation by clergy and people of Rome in 590.

    If there are lay men and women taking part in the election, they would clearly be representing the laity, not the clergy. They would be “honorary” members of the people of Rome, just as cardinals are honorary members of the clergy of Rome – the cardinal bishops are the titular heads of suburbican sees, the cardinal priests are titular pastors of Roman churches and basilicas, etc.
    They could have their own “college” and a really cool name of some kind – or maybe they could just be called “lay cardinals.” And special clothes. The people who are selected for this honor would have some special education or expertise as well as great experience in the Church, and also able to do what the cardinals do – serve as advisers, and work in the Roman Congregations in places where a cleric is not necessarily required.

    Now that takes a lot of thought and an enormous amount of time to set up. So not be next February anyway :-)

  28. Lori Pieper says:

    (Maybe the lay men and women could be “titular faculty” in the pontifical universities in Rome – sort of like an honorary doctorate)

  29. Elizabeth D says:

    “And if he were to do it [create women cardinals], I think it would pave the way for women priests and women deacons.”

    This is nonsense, since even if technically there could be women cardinals (since cardinals technically do not have to be priests) it is not possible for there to be women priests. The Church has no authority to ordain women as priests. This is never going to change. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis (besides the entire preceding Tradition of the Church) have ALL said this is definitive, infallible, a settled matter. Even if a majority of cardinals were heretics on this matter, there still could not be women priests. But if Pope Francis names cardinals who agree with him, he is not going to create women-priests-believers as cardinals since this is clearly not his belief. He knows perfectly well the danger this belief poses to the Church. So I do not have this worry.

    I do not think there need to be women cardinals. Bourgja gives an interesting reason I would not have thought of. But mainly, this would sow confusion. And I doubt there are many women in a position to know as much about what goes on the Church and to know as many bishops and as well as bishops know. Also it makes a certain amount of sense to have as Cardinal electors men who could theoretically be Pope. I believe even a lay man theoretically could be elected as Pope and then ordained. A woman cannot be Pope because the Pope is a priest. It would create way too much confusion and just lead to calls from feminists that there is still a terrible injustice unless half the cardinals are women. It leads to absurdity.

  30. McCall1981 says:

    Well, if his Cardinal appointments are anything like his Bishop appointments, then I think we will be happy. The Bishops he ‘s named so far seem surprisingly quite good, so I hope the trend continues with Cardinals.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    Someone needs to write a Politically Incorrect Guide to Pope Francis’ Teachings (PIG guides are great). How about it, Father Z? You would make a mint dispelling rumor and innuendo .

  32. William Tighe says:

    Sometimes non-Catholics see “Catholic things” more clearly than Catholics themselves. A case in point: contrast the “what’s the big deal” attitude of contented ignorance concerning the possibility of “woman cardinals” with the remarks, below, of an intelligent and well-read Missouri-Synod Lutheran friend of mine, who is responding to this article:


    The comment follows:

    This is all so silly.

    The linked article you distributed states “the position of cardinal is not bound by what is commonly called the “divine constitution” of the Church,”and that is true, but then again, it is not true. Whatever else the cardinals may be, they are clergy of the diocese of Rome (or, in the case of cardinal bishops, hierarchs of the suburbicarian dioceses). It is that status which, fundamentally, gives them the right to elect the bishop of Rome. While there has been the occasional cardinal in the history of the Church of Rome who was not an ordained priest, it is my understanding that in every case the man had received the clerical tonsure and was ordained at least to one of the minor orders. The clerical status given by tonsure is not open to women.

    The article also states (correctly) that the cardinalate is an institution of ecclesiastical rather than divine origin, and that “there is nothing to prevent the Church from abolishing the College of Cardinals and radically reforming it, transforming into something that is very different to what it is today,” but that is precisely what would have to happen before a lay person — male or female — could be made a cardinal. The college of cardinals would no longer represent the clergy of Rome, and the venerable custom of the clergy of a local Church electing her hierarch would be broken.

    Of course it is possible, but it would be a very, very bad idea.

  33. robtbrown says:

    Lori Pieper says:

    (Maybe the lay men and women could be “titular faculty” in the pontifical universities in Rome – sort of like an honorary doctorate)

    My old friends the Rossi sisters have taught at the Angelicum for some time. All three attended Roman Classical High Schools (licei classici), know Greek better than most priests know Latin, are very Catholic, and did all their studies at the Angelicum. And a Dominican sister named Lamoureux taught philosophy there for years.

    I did not attend the Greg, but during my Roman years I heard that the best Scripture prof there was a lay woman.

  34. Robbie says:

    Well, since I’ve been called out by mamjen and others, I guess I better defend myself and my opinions. And notice I said opinion because that’s precisely what I offered, my opinion. I’m sorry they differ from others here, but I think there’s plenty of evidence to support them. And stating opinions doesn’t mean I’m aiding progressives and rumormongers.

    Firstly, as Sandro Magister and others have pointed out, Francis is essentially following the Martini program. If you’re not familiar with him, he was the dream Jesuit Cardinal of the progressive movement and a vocal critic of the papacies of JPII and Benedict. Just as importantly, Francis, in September, called him a father of the Church.

    So what was the Martini plan? He suggested Popes should surround themselves with a small group of Cardinals to help advise. He suggested the Church needed to come up with a better solution for divorced Catholics. He said the Church needed to expand the role of women in the Church. He also called for a papacy rooted in pastoral concerns. In all four cases, Francis has said the similar things.

    As for rumors about a female Cardinal, I said I think it’s unlikely. Still, I think it’s something that’s being discussed. Discussing it doesn’t mean it going to happen soon though. Regardless, I do think a reason it’s been so hyped by the left is because they see it as a path to women priests. If people become comfortable with a female Cardinal, then they’ll move to a female deacon as a German Bishop recently suggested. And once people become acclimated to that, well, then what’s the big deal about women priests?

    Now, if Cardinal Martini had been elected Pope, I think most here would be apoplectic. Fortunately, Martini was never elected Pope, but Francis certainly seems to be doing many of the things Martini advocated. Francis may not be Martini, but it seems it’s just as easy to read Francis through Martini as it is Francis through Benedict.

  35. Imrahil says:

    Interesting points about Cdl Martini. I remember when he died he was preached about at our local Jesuit Church, and his spiritual testament, or so, was distributed. I was quite sure that I did not like it.

    That said,
    And once people become acclimated to that, well, then what’s the big deal about women priests?
    You know of course what it is. It’s to all practical effects a dogma that stands against it.

    There is a sort of progressism which cannot and will not bring itself to deny a dogma of the Church – good for them, of course! – but also is not necessarily unproblematic.

    I seriously think that those parts of the hierarchy who are pushing for the women’s deaconate are not doing so to step on to women priests afterwards, but to give to women what they feel everything they can give them (for the precise reason that it has not yet been out-dogmatized). They miscalculate, though; women, neither traditional Catholic women nor feminists, would not be grateful.

  36. mamajen says:


    I did some reading up, and found that Pope Francis said this:

    The late cardinal, who died on August 31 2012, at the age of 85, was “a father for the whole Church”, and remembering one’s fathers “is an act of justice”, the Pope said during a meeting with a group of Italian Jesuits.

    Not saying I agree with that statement, but I do think “father for the Church” is different from “father of the Church”.

    At the end of the same article, I found this:

    When the cardinal died, Benedict XVI praised his generous service to the Gospel and the church and said this “authoritative biblicist” helped open for the church community “the treasures of the sacred Scriptures”.

    Look, I’m not trying to pick on you. I just think that getting caught up in rumors is fruitless. Why not pray and hope for the best instead of trying to read tea leaves and expecting the worst? It’s all out of our control anyway.

  37. Lori Pieper says:

    Fr. Z.: about the “viri” vs. “homines” – thanks for catching this. My little aside was directed toward the idea that only men had a vote in those days in any situation, including civil elections, and that today ideas have changed and women are included as voters in those situations. It doesn’t really address whether women would be included in the election of the Pope. This was not clearly explained, even to myself :-)

  38. Johnno says:

    To say that women can technically be Cardinals is also to say that a woman can technically play the role of Abraham Lincoln in a movie. She just needs enough makeup and prosthetics is all. Frankly there’s no good reason why you couldn’t also just have a well trained dog. Just needs some clever set up and editing. You could do it, but what’s the practical point? I know nothing on engineering. But there’s no technical reason why I can’t attend a design meeting between other engineers to build a dam and chip in a pence or two of how I think it ought to be constructed. Next I can participate in a complicated medical procedure and aid the doctor despite having no medical expertise or training.

    The Cardinals who run the Church and vote in the conclave are men of a particular ‘profession.’ And this profession is exclusive to men. There is really no reason why women would be needed any more than in any of the above scenarios even though it’s all ‘technically’ feasible.

    There’s a reason parks put up signs saying ‘Don’t feed the Birds.’ So please, don’t feed the liberals. They will soon all be swarming around you with hands open begging for more crumbs than you can possibly give, squawking at you change the laws of nature to feed their appetites if you have to, while crapping all over the place to the point that the other people around you start looking for other parks to go to where the birds sing better while looking towards Heaven for bread.

  39. Robbie says:

    To spend hours gnashing teeth over internet rumors is a wasteful endeavor. But I think it’s a stretch to say the stories about a female Cardinal, which I don’t think will happen, are merely internet rumors. Stories have appeared in several large print publications and some have even gone so far as to say a particular woman is being considered. Again, I don’t think this is going to happen, but when the story appears again and a again it suggests to me something is percolating under the radar.

    As for whether a woman can be a Cardinal, Cardinal Dolan and the Vatican press secretary both have said it’s theoretically possible. Of course, so is time travel too.

  40. Imrahil says:

    As for whether a woman can be a Cardinal, Cardinal Dolan and the Vatican press secretary both have said it’s theoretically possible.

    It is possible to withdraw the right of papal election from the College of Cardinals (with or without disrupting it) and assign it to some other body somehow formed, possible calling it “the cardinals” again because it would fulfil such a cardinal function for the Church.

    It is not possible to make a woman a Cardinal, that is a part of the College of Cardinals, as presently in existence. The reason is that the College of Cardinals is by nature a clerical (and Roman) body – representing (as has been said above) the clergy of Rome (and the bishops of its province) in its former function of electing the Bishop of Rome.

  41. jhayes says:

    JKnott wrote: The Church never made Mother Teresa or St Catherine of Siena cardinals for a good and supernatural reason. The liberal push for women in the hierarchy is based on the utilitarian non-virtue of political correctness.

    According to this article, in February 2012, Fr. Groeschel interviewed cardinal Dolan:

    Groeschel: And theologically—this is going to throw our audience off a bit—it theoretically could be a woman made a cardinal, …
    Dolan: Theoretically.
    Groeschel: …, because there is no holy orders [involved] there.
    Dolan: That’s right. You know, in fact, get this, and I’ve heard it from more than one person that one time somebody said to Blessed John Paul II, ‘You should make Mother Teresa of Calcutta a cardinal.’ … And the pope said, ‘I asked her, she doesn’t want to be one.’ ”

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