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Austin Cline

Could Australian Nun Be Named Cardinal?

By November 15, 2013

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Nun in the 1930s
Photo: Imagno/Getty

Maryanne Loughry, assistant director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, is an Australian nun who has declared her willingness to serve as a cardinal if so named by Pope Francis I. Unfortunately, no one in the Vatican has actually said that there is any interest in naming any women as cardinal - the idea has come entirely from American Jesuit priest James Keenan.

So the chances of a woman actually being made a cardinal any time soon, much less in February at the next consistory, is just about nonexistent. That's not to say, however, that his listing of eight possible female candidates is entirely without relevance or merit.

Pope Francis has spoken of encouraging a deeper role in ministry for women, leading to speculation he intends to appoint one at his first consistory next February. Although women cannot be ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, it is open to the Pope to decide that cardinals need not be ordained, according to canon law.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York also fuelled interest when he said last year it was theoretically possible for the pope to appoint female cardinals. He said Pope John Paul II asked Mother Teresa of Calcutta if she wanted to be a cardinal, but she declined.

Sister Loughry is a Sisters of Mercy psychologist who specialises in the mental health effects of trauma on refugees. She spends part of the year teaching at Oxford and Boston, and returned last week from Syria, where she was working with refugees.

Source: The Age

So there are a couple of reasons to take the idea seriously. First, Father Keenan isn't the first to raise the idea. Second, even Pope John Paul II was amenable to the idea, as long as the female candidate was conservative and famous enough. Third, it's technically legal (at one point, being a priest wasn't even a prerequisite for being named pope!)

Fourth, and perhaps most important, a step such as this would be dramatic enough that it's unlikely that the Catholic Church would do it suddenly and out of nowhere. Remember, it's an old institution with traditions and practices that date back centuries. It will never do "radical change" suddenly.

So raising the possibility in such a public manner now means that actually seeing such a develop down the road - like maybe in the next decade - is made a bit more likely. I seriously doubt that Pope Francis I would name a female cardinal at his very first consistory. I am much more open to the possibility, though, that he'd be willing to take such a step much later in his papacy. The key will be to watch for more positive signs from more people about this.

November 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm
(1) Jeanne says:

If any pope would make a woman a cardinal, it would be Pope Francis. He seems to be breaking away from tradition. I think that he understands that for the Catholic church to survive, it must not be so rigid. It will be interesting to see what happens.

November 23, 2013 at 11:50 am
(2) Peartree says:

Females who are Catholic deserve any abuse that the Church heaps upon them. They are adults and can easily change the Church in a week.

They need to start their own Church, the Female Catholic Church, and break away from a church that considers females inferior to men. Once they do that, and quit giving tithes to the Church, and use that money to support their own church, the Catholic Church will instantly find some way to rationalize that they were wrong all the time, and state that women are equal to men.

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