Some of us were once told about ladies in red hats. I for one am greatly looking forward to the Holy Father's list of Lady Cardinals. Blessed John Paul II offered it to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, but she declined.
However, we are now in the Pontificate of "the next Pope but one", whose infallibility was proverbial. Yet he will not be appointing Sister Jeannine Cardinal Gramick, Dr Lavinia Cardinal Byrne, Professor Tina Cardinal Beattie or Ms Catherine Cardinal Pepinster.
Rather, every one of those named will know exactly what the first question in every interview was going to be, and she will know exactly what the answer was. She will also know the answers to all subsequent questions. It will be a glorious thing to behold.
Since apparently we must, there is no theological reason why women cannot be Cardinals. The office is purely canonical, not doctrinal.
There have been various ways of producing Popes in the past, while the historical norm for the appointment of bishops is by the local lay ruler. Even the Protestant King of Prussia, with his Lutheran ecclesial, and not only ecclesiastical, role. Even the Tsar of All the Russias, an Orthodox Living Icon. Even the Ottoman Sultan, the Caliph of every Sunni Muslim in the world. And even, inherited from Prussia down to the present day in Alsace-Lorraine, the President sworn to uphold the fiercely secular Constitution of the French Republic.
Since the relatively recent emergence of the present system of Papal elections, the requirement that Cardinals be priests dates only from 1917, while the requirement that they be bishops dates from as recently as 1983.
The latter is dispensed for Jesuits who are not diocesan bishops, and it could be dispensed for anyone. As could the former. The Pope would be free to abolish both requirements altogether, or to establish any exception to them that he happened to see fit. He could abolish Cardinals altogether, come to that.
A Pope who attempted to abolish bishops, priests or deacons would be ipso facto deposed for heresy, as would a Pope who suggested that women might become any of those. But a Pope who abolished Cardinals, or who appointed women to their ranks, would be perfectly within his rights.
There is no argument that Lay Cardinals historically received the Tonsure, since that, too, was purely canonical, conferring the status of a cleric. It was not ordination. That it could be abolished, along with Minor Orders and the Subdiaconate, demonstrated that those things were matters of law rather than of doctrine, as everyone had always known. No one had ever suggested the contrary. Just as everyone has always known that the Episcopate, Presbyterate and Diaconate could not be abolished.
In any case, the requirement that Cardinals receive at least the Tonsure made it quite clear that they had not been doing so hitherto, but with no suggestion that that had invalidated any exercise of their office. Making them all clerics was simply what was felt by the Roman Pontiff to be more expedient at the time. If the Roman Pontiff feels that women as Cardinals would be more expedient at this time, then that is just that.
The genius of this Pope is that, by saying nothing remotely new, he has nevertheless challenged profoundly those who had been given a free pass under his two immediate predecessors, mostly because they were supposed to be working towards the abolition of abortion in the United States.
They have made absolutely no progress whatever towards that end, so they are no longer being indulged in their advocacy of unregulated economic markets, in their warmongering, in their support for capital punishment, and in all their other de facto schismatic tendencies. They might even try and post reams of comments on here, citing the authorities of their own haeresis. For that is what we are dealing with.
Even beyond a direct refusal to submit to Petrine authority, actual doctrinal error is not uncommon among them. For all the greatness of Blessed John Paul II, he did not act with sufficient vigour against the fancies that became current among his allies against the Soviet Bloc and then, at least ostensibly, against secular liberalism.
Theological Commissions, not least under the then Cardinal Ratzinger, were too politely European and academic as they brushed off Marian Co-Redemption (I defy you to find any serious theologian who calls it anything better than "an unfortunate but perhaps necessary title" or what have you, but they are not dealing with people who get that kind of message), or attempts to argue that celibacy was of the esse of the Priesthood, or conspiracy theories about Fatima and all manner of other things, or loud purported canonisations of assorted shibboleths, some of which might even have been true, but none of which had anything to do with the content of the Faith. Under Benedict XVI, this began to reach lunatic levels, with growing attacks on, for example, Natural Family Planning.
Anyone who had bothered to check would have known, and would still know, the Church's position on neoliberal capitalism, on pre-emptive war, on nuclear weapons, on the death penalty, and indeed on Natural Family Planning. They would have know, and would still know, about Fatima. They would have known, and would still know, about clerical celibacy. They would have known, and would still know, about accurate Mariology.
They would have known, and would still know, that the Church was indifferent on the question of the age of the earth, leaving it to specialists, since the fact of God's Creation of the world was unaffected by the answer to that question. They would have known, and would still know, that, while Shakespeare's Catholicism was highly plausible, it was no part of the Faith. And so on. And on. And on. And on. And on.
This Pope has already excommunicated a schismatic liberal Australian priest. If necessary, he will have no compunction about excommunicating schismatic conservatives, too. For they are, as they have always been, exactly as schismatic as each other.
Bringing us to the dear old Society of Saint Pius X. Of course it thinks that this Pope is a Modernist. It has thought the same thing about the last four, the only others under whom it has ever existed. We must be clear exactly what Lefebvrism is,
and is not.
It is certainly not "just traditional Catholicism", or even just Catholicism as widely practised during the Pianische Monolothismus.
Rather, it makes sense only in certain very specific terms peculiar to
France. Terms that, for very French reasons, it assumes to be universal
when they are not.
Lefevbrist devotional and disciplinary
practice is an obvious expression of, if not direct Jansenist influence, though
probably so, then at least the strain in the French character that made it
receptive to Jansenism. Likewise, Lefebvrist theory and organisational practice are
no less obviously expressions of Gallicanism, and sometimes of very advanced
For example, rule of the SSPX is by a General
Chapter in which not only do bishops and simple presbyters have equal status,
but it is considered an aberration that the Superior-General is at present a
bishop, rather than being a simple presbyter to whom the Society's bishops
would be, and in the past have been, subject. Shades of the extreme Gallican
attempts to prove a Dominical institution of the office of parish priest.
shades of the structural arrangements of Anglo-Catholic traditionalism over the
last two decades and before, echoing the extent to which that movement has
always tapped into the same English and Welsh organisational traits that made
Congregationalism so popular (and many of the same English and Welsh devotional
traits that made Methodism so popular) just as Lefebvrism has tapped into the
same French traits that had previously manifested themselves as Gallicanism
Although I should have to investigate any specifically Spanish reason
why this has come to be so, such trends become even more pronounced in
the structure of Opus Dei.
Sanctification through work, the living of a contemplative life in the
middle of the world, Christian freedom correctly defined, and the
recognition of divine filiation: these are the principles calling all
Catholics to rediscover and renew, ever-more-deeply, our beginning the
day by offering it to God, our frequent Communion, our daily examination
of conscience, our Eucharistic Adoration, our ejaculatory prayer, our use of holy water, and our
devotion to the Mother of God, to the Angels and to the Saints. And,
yes, our practice of corporal mortification.
But Opus Dei's domination by the laity, yet in an organisation of which
clergy are members, effectively turning priests into little more than
transubstantiation and absolution machines a great deal of the time,
seems more appropriate to the more advanced forms of Congregationalism,
to the Baptist movement, and to expressions of Methodism such as the
Primitive Methodists, the still-existing Independent Methodist Connexion
(with its partly Quaker roots) in the North of England, and the Bible
Christians of the West Country.
Even those, in fact, were or are not quite like that. There is something
positively Quaker, at least historically, about the maintenance of
autonomous male and female branches. But most of all, the whole thing
looks like lay rule through Royal Gallicanism and its local implications
all the way down to parochial level, while also recalling the power
wielded in the Jansenist subculture by the Abbesses of Port-Royal and
their subjects. Again, there is more than a whiff of Anglo-Catholicism
in all of this, or of all of this in Anglo-Catholicism.
Lefebvrism gives perhaps the first ever formal
institutional shape to the situation created by the seventeenth century, which
began with three competing parties in the French Church, but which ended with
two, the Gallicans and the Jansenists having effectively merged against the
Ultramontanes due to the deployment of Gallican ecclesiological arguments
against the Papal condemnations of Jansenist soteriological ones.
wayside had fallen such features as Jansenist belief, with the sole if notable
exception of Pascal, in the infallibility of Papal definitions ex cathedra,
and Gallican use of belief in Our Lady's Immaculate Conception as a mark of
party identity due to its having been defined by the Council of Basel.
popular attraction of the Lefebvrist clergy in terms of the old Latin
Mass and traditional or "traditional" devotions echoes that of the
clergy in terms of the old diocesan Missals and Breviaries and a
the entrenched local devotional practices reviled, like those entrenched
liturgical forms, by the Ultramontanes.
The French Church, or an idea of the French
Church, is assumed to be fundamentally autonomous, so that the incompatibility
of Dignitatis Humanae with a very specifically French
Counter-Revolutionary theory of the relationship between Church and State means
that it is the Conciliar Declaration that must yield. This is simply taken to
In reality, such a position is as schismatic and as heretical
as John Courtney Murray's attempt to conform Dignitatis Humanae to the
American republican tradition's reading of the First Amendment as taught to
high school students, an approach comprehensible only within Manifest
Destiny and all that.
That has therefore ended up, for now, in George
Weigel's signature to the Project for the New American Century, and in the
public support for the Iraq War on the part of the late Richard John Neuhaus,
known to George W Bush as "Father Richard".
American "conservative" Catholicism
sees the American Church as autonomous as surely as does American
"liberal" Catholicism, and freely disregards Catholic Teaching on
social justice and on peace as surely as the other side freely disregards
Catholic Teaching on bioethical and sexual issues.
As a result, both alike are blind
to the Magisterium's brilliant and unique global witness to the inseparability
of all of these concerns. In both the French and the American cases, there is a
strange inability to recognise that what one was taught at 13 or 14 might not
always be the last word on any given subject.
Well, they are dealing with a new, and a very different, Pope now.