Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Irish theologian tipped to be Catholic Church's first female cardinal

Pope Francis may be poised to open the way for women cardinals
Pope Francis may be poised to open the way for women cardinals

Speculation is mounting that Pope Francis may be poised to open the way for women cardinals in the Catholic Church.

Last night, the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland (ACP) said it was particularly delighted, as an Irish theologian was a leading contender.

Spokesman Fr Tony Flannery said the ACP was very happy that women may finally get this recognition.

The Redemptorist priest was responding to media reports that TCD Professor of Ecumenics, Linda Hogan, who is also Vice Provost of the college, has been nominated on a list of contenders by the Professor of Moral Theology at Boston College, Fr James Keenan SJ.

Fr Keenan is one of a number of liberals proposing this key structural change.

He listed Prof Hogan top of his nominees of possible candidates. However, a spokeswoman for Prof Hogan said she would not be commenting on the matter, while a spokesman for the Irish bishops said he had no information and therefore could not comment.

Fr Keenan also included Holy Child Jesus Sr Teresa Okure, a theology professor at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Nigeria; and Maryanne Loughry, the associate director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Australia, on his list of nominees.

According to Fr Flannery, there are "many fine women who would make an enormous contribution" and he said it would be great to have a woman in the next conclave choosing the next pope.

The "most obvious person would be our ex-president, Mary McAleese" who is a canon lawyer and is currently a visiting scholar at Boston College.

Last week, Ms McAleese told the US publication, the 'Worcester Telegram & Gazette', that there needed to be more power-sharing with women in the Catholic Church.

"It's deeply offensive that they are not included in the decision-making process," she said.

A canonical provision dating from 1917 prohibits the unordained being appointed as cardinals and its existence has led some in the church to believe the possibility of a woman ever becoming a cardinal is fanciful.

However, the ACP believes this provision can be changed easily as it is not fundamental church dogma but a rule.

"We understand that there is no doctrinal reason as to why it might not happen. Lay people have been cardinals in the past," Fr Flannery said.

He suggested that appointing women as cardinals would be "a very sensible way of going about giving women a bigger role in the church" and "less controversial" than ordination.

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