Cardinals from peripheries are a step forward

(NCR Online) Although no pope would say it openly, appointing cardinals is the most overtly political act of any papacy. It is the only time a pope makes a decision that is almost strictly electoral, namely: Who should vote for my successor when I’m done with the job?

The process is, of course, entirely sexist and undemocratic. One man — and it is always a man — appoints the other men — and it is always only men — who will some day elect a leader responsible for ministering to one-seventh of the world’s population.

For a wide swath of Catholics, the appointment of cardinals only underscores the gap between the official church’s talk about the rights and dignity of women and its lack of action on women’s behalf. This certainly dashes the hopes of all who share Pope Francis’ stated desire “to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the church.”

Yet, for all that, Francis is doing something interesting and laudable with this most unaccountable group: He’s making it a bit more representative of the 1.3 billion Catholics to which it ministers, and of the world in which they live.

Francis is also clearly beginning to acknowledge that he cares more about who it is he’s empowering to elect his successor than about which diocese or church office that person leads. [More]


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