When last month the new Pope called for ‘a stronger presence of women in the church’ and ‘a truly deep theology of women’, I wrote, “But such a theology already exists, certainly in the Catholic Church, where Mary’s status almost equals that of her son. What does ‘a stronger presence’ mean? Female priesthood? Female episcopate?”
Indeed, since it was clear to any reasonable person that the Catholic church could never possibly ordain a woman, the pontiff’s meaning wasn’t immediately obvious.
It is now, if persistent rumours are to be believed. His Holiness is planning to let a woman don a cardinal’s red hat.
The rumour (news?) originates from an article in the Spanish paper El Pais. A former Brazilian priest, Juan Arias, wrote the idea was ‘not a joke’. “Knowing the Pope, he wouldn’t hesitate before appointing a woman cardinal.”
If true, this means my wild conjecture had a touch of truth about it. After all, according to the ruling of Pope John XXIII (d. 1963),all cardinals are automatically bishops.
Linda Hogan, theology professor at Trinity, Dublin, is the woman allegedly picked to model the red hat at the conclave.
The lady’s credentials are unimpeachable: she’s married, leftwing and in tune with the Pope’s innermost convictions. According to a colleague, “One of her strong beliefs is something Pope Francis has been hinting at, too: that the basis of moral theology starts from human experience.”
And there they were, all those Augustines, Origens and Aquinases, thinking that ‘the basis of moral theology’ started with God. How wrong they were. Trust the Frank and Linda double act to sort them out.
The next step will be renaming the Lord’s Prayer as Kant’s prayer: “Our Immanuel who art in heaven, give us this day our moral law and do not bother to forgive our trespasses for this is what our courts are for…”
This raises interesting possibilities for traditional Christians, and not just in the Roman Catholic church. Anglican traditionalists, for example, find themselves in a trap resembling that designed by Lenin and Stalin.
Those gentlemen noticed with their eagle eye that people tend to flee from any place where their wellbeing, material but especially spiritual, is threatened.
The Soviet Union was living proof of this tendency, what with millions running away from the most progressive society in history. Millions fled immediately after the revolution, more millions during the Second World War, more millions still in the last 40 years.
In the middle of this timeline, the number of Soviet Socialist republics went down from 16 to 15. The Karelo-Finnish SSR, carved out of Finland in 1940 as a result of Soviet aggression, had to be rolled into Russia proper in 1956. The reason was simple: its whole population had escaped to what was left of Finland.
Long before this happened the founders of Bolshevism realised that a mass exodus from progress wasn’t so much likely as guaranteed. They tried every trick to make sure the USSR still had some people left.
The Soviet frontier became the most guarded national frontier in history, with million-strong border guards instructed to shoot on sight, their dogs trained to go for the throat. Thousands of searchlights made sure it was always daylight at the border, so the running human targets were clearly visible.
Nothing worked: people kept running, as they later did in Germany, scaling the Wall under fire. The solution presented itself: to nick the exodus in the bud the Soviets had to make sure that there would be nowhere for the people to run.
In other words, they had to extend the Soviet paradise to the whole globe, a pictorial representation of which duly appeared in the Soviet national escutcheon. If the whole world could become uniformly Bolshevik, people would stay put. Running away would be meaningless.
In an odd sort of way, not just Catholics but also traditional Anglicans are finding themselves in the same position as those Soviet slaves of yesteryear.
The liberal hierarchy of the Church of England is deadset on making it impossible for traditional Christians to stay in the fold. The church has suffered tremendous attrition, especially at its High end, after every progressive innovation, including of course the ordination of women.
For many the eventual consecration of female bishops will be the last straw. Much as it would pain them, traditional Christians would be simply unable to remain Anglican.
Thanks to Pope Benedict’s generous offer of the Ordinariate, at least they have somewhere to escape to. They can join the Catholic rite while preserving much of the traditional Anglican liturgy and most of its beautiful scriptural texts.
Now Pope Frances has allegedly come up with a ploy that could have been inspired by Soviet experience. What’s the point in leaving a confession that allows female bishops for one that allows female cardinals?
None at all, especially if we remember that any cardinal could become Pope – just as any Anglican bishop could become the Archbishop of Canterbury.
All traditional Christians can do is cling to the word ‘rumour’, hoping that this is all it is, but fearing that there’s fire behind all this smoke.
This reminds me of the press conference given by the baseball player Joe ‘Shoeless’ Jackson after he was accused of fixing the 1919 World Series. A desperate fan screamed, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
Say it ain’t so, Your Holiness.