Cardinal Linda Hogan: Can we all Vote on It?

linda-hogan2There was speculation over the weekend that my colleague from the Irish School of Ecumenics, Professor Linda Hogan, had been tipped to become a Cardinal.

Hogan, now serving as Vice Provost at Trinity College Dublin, was described in the Sunday Times as ‘a woman, married, a feminist and only 49.’ The Sunday Times also featured one of the best visuals of the weekend, with a photo of Hogan in her Trinity robes superimposed over an image of the red-robed Cardinals meeting in the Vatican.

It’s not the first time that the idea of female Cardinals has been suggested. Several priests from the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) have suggested it in the past, with Mary McAleese and Nuala O’Loan among other women suggested for the position.

Many people might be surprised at the possibility of women Cardinals. But even as Fr Federico Lombardi, a senior spokesman for the Vatican, said:

“This is just nonsense . . . It is simply not a realistic possibility that Pope Francis will name women cardinals for the February consistory … ”

He also admitted:

“Theologically and theoretically, it is possible. … Being a cardinal is one of those roles in the church for which, theoretically, you do not have to be ordained …”

Hogan is said to have been put at the top of the list of Cardinal nominations from the Professor of Moral Theology at Boston College, Fr James Keenan SJ.

An article about Hogan was posted on the Irish School of Ecumenics’ Facebook page yesterday, and it was interesting to see former and current students react to the news. As expected, many were excited. But they quite quickly dampened their enthusiasm with more measured assessments of the Vatican’s slowness and often seeming inability to make these kinds of changes.

This story about possible female Cardinals broke only a few days after news about a Vatican-sponsored survey, which promises to ask local parishes (including, it would seem, laity) their approaches to a range of issues including birth control, divorce and gay marriage.

For all those conservative Catholics fond of proclaiming ‘the Catholic Church is NOT a democracy’ such a survey may be cause for concern. (And I happen to agree with them – I think the empirical evidence confirms that the Church is not a democracy.)

But I see the survey as a sign of hope that the Catholic Church hierarchy – especially Pope Francis – might be open to listening to the Holy Spirit speaking through all the people of God.

This leads me to pose a cheeky question, albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek:

When it comes to considering Professor Linda Hogan for Cardinal, can we all vote on it?

3 thoughts on “Cardinal Linda Hogan: Can we all Vote on It?”

  1. I was genuinely gutted to discover that the initial press stories I read (in the Irish Independent and then the Belfast Telegraph), which described Hogan as ‘tipped to be’ first female cardinal, and that Pope Francis was ‘poised to open the way’ were, if not quite gags or parodies, then at least wildly optimistic.

    I’m sure the reporters thought of the initial reports as interesting and quirky, something fun for the Irish market (first female cardinal! And hey! She’s Irish!). But for an (admittedly) relatively small number of us, this is really important stuff that we do not want thrown around lightly. For me, it felt a bit like suffering from a debilitating form of bone cancer, reading a headline that said medical researchers were on to a cure, then reading the article to find that they’d thought up a theoretically possible avenue for further study for a treatment that would probably run about $75,000 a dose, would need to taken once a week for a lifetime- and it was all realistically 15 years away anyway.

    If this level of change in the Catholic church indeed does start to occur, it will be of a type that is incremental to a fault. Yes, we might have an un-ordained cardinal at some point, but it will be a man. We will then sporadically have un-ordained, unmarried, celibate men for a century or so. Then- and only then- we might have an elderly, celibate woman religious mystic as the first female cardinal.

    In that scenario, which I do believe to be brutally realistic, Hogan has so many strikes against her in so many ways that the notion enters the realm of (to use the Vatican’s word) ‘nonsense’.

    The bitter fact is that the Church cannot find much of anything for women- let alone married, academic, intellectual women- to do, even at parish level. Why would we think they’d all of a sudden be a storm of creativity to find things for them to do at the top?

    Reading it felt like a particularly cruel, tasteless practical joke. And I’m sure many people would look at that reaction as over-the-top (‘Oh, come on! I was KIDDING!’), but they wouldn’t understand how deeply-held our hope is. For some of us, reform of the Church in any number of areas is a serious hope- and hopes must be held with care.

    The ancient Hebrew prophets described this type of hope as that of the watchmen on the walls of a city looking for the dawn. My father-in-law, a Vietnam combat veteran, speaks of the hope of soldiers who have been under fire through a pitch-black night and who finally see the first rays of the morning sun. The attack doesn’t necessarily end, but options appear; rescue and reinforcement become available; damage and strengths can be assessed.

    Basically, hope becomes possible…

    Those of us who think and work in the field of ‘ecumenics’- the intersection of faith, politics and culture- have been fighting through a very, very long, dark night, and we haven’t seen a a lot of daylight in a very long time. So reading those headlines yesterday made for a wonderful morning.

    Here’s hoping for the real sunrise…

  2. Great story. But that’s what it is. A story. Not a reality.

    On the point of democracy in the Catholic Church, I would echo the sentiments of Richard Rohr who says that democracy is the least worst option in society. Better to be governed by a wise old person who brings sensibility and the Spirit to bear. Oh wait a minute….. Don’t we in the Catholic tradition have that? 🙂

  3. I would not be opposed to this possibility, however the church is not a democratic entity. At least not in the standard meaning of democracy.

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