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Francis and Philip (Update)

In his homily this morning, during Mass with bishop, priests, religious, and seminarians, Pope Francis urged them: "Be servants of communion and of the culture of encounter!"

It brought to mind the letter sent ten years ago by the late Monsignor Philip Murnion to the Bishops of the United States – literally as he lay dying. Philip wrote:

A spirituality of communion and dialogue is as demanding in its asceticism as a spirituality of the desert or the cloister. Like them, it also requires its own appropriate structures. The Catholic tradition knows well that spirituality and structure are not opposed. Here, as elsewhere, it affirms the "both/and" of charism and institution, invisible grace and visible embodiment. Both are essential, though only one is eternal. We can ill afford to be less Catholic than the pope himself who insists: "The spirituality of communion, by prompting a trust and openness wholly in accord with the dignity and responsibility of every member of the people of God, supplies institutional reality with a soul."

The Pope Philip was quoting was John Paul II. Francis seems to be implementing the program.

Update: In a blunt and programmatic address to the leadership of the Latin American Episcopal Conference Pope Francis laid out his vision of renewal in the Church. Many of the themes have appeared piecemeal over these weeks; but here they form an integral whole.

He said for example:

In practice, do we make the lay faithful sharers in the Mission? Do we offer them the word of God and the sacraments with a clear awareness and conviction that the Holy Spirit makes himself manifest in them?

Is pastoral discernment a habitual criterion, through the use of Diocesan Councils? Do such Councils and Parish Councils, whether pastoral or financial, provide real opportunities for lay people to participate in pastoral consultation, organization and planning? The good functioning of these Councils is critical. I believe that on this score, we are far behind.

And in a succinct statement of his passionate persuasion:

Missionary discipleship is a vocation: a call and an invitation. It is given in the “today”, but also “in tension”. There is no such thing as static missionary discipleship. A missionary disciple cannot be his own master, his immanence is in tension towards the transcendence of discipleship and towards the transcendence of mission. It does not allow for self-absorption: either it points to Jesus Christ or it points to the people to whom he must be proclaimed. The missionary disciple is a self-transcending subject, a subject projected towards encounter: an encounter with the Master (who anoints us as his disciples) and an encounter with men and women who await the message.

Hold on – the next months will be quite a ride. Or, better, as he would insist: go forth and share the Good News!

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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In his adress to Bishops (only) on the same day, Francis said:

"Let us not reduce the involvement of women in the Church, but instead promote their active role in the ecclesial community. By losing women, the Church risks becoming sterile."


"Another lesson which the Church must constantly recall is that she cannot leave simplicity behind; otherwise she forgets how to speak the language of Mystery. Not only does she herself remain outside the door of the mystery, but she proves incapable of approaching those who look to the Church for something which they themselves cannot provide, namely, God himself. At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people. Without the grammar of simplicity, the Church loses the very conditions which make it possible “to fish” for God in the deep waters of his Mystery."  (scroll down)

John Hayes,

Thanks for calling attention to this important address of Pope Francis to the Bishops of Brazil.

This link may be better:

The pope said: "Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them;"

But the "Church" ( I assume he means clergy and hierarchy only when saying "Church' rather than THE church of 1.1 billion) doesn't listen. And since they don't listen they are not capable of walking with the people.  

The "church" (hierarchy/clergy) has to realize it can't just talk to it also has to listen.  Until they show that they can listen, it is premature to talk about the "church" walking with the people.

I agree, Anne.  Pope Francis seems to be assuming that the hierarchy does listen.  But with very few exceptions they don't.  Somewhere else he said that the bishops must "dialogue, dialogue, dialogue".  But dialogue with t he laity doesn't seem to be part of any of the hierarchy's plans.  They don't even seem to dialogue with the theologians.  It's all a one way verbal street.

"Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them;" 

I can hear Fr. Congar asking: "Pro quo supponit Ecclesia?"  What does the word "Church" mean here? Are the people not the Church?  So then does it mean the hierarchy?  

Ann is right that there's not a great deal of listening going on, although I'd be less sweeping in her indictment of the hierarchy:  there are hierarchs and there are hierarchs; some listen, some don't.  The real problem is that there aren't sufficient institutions for such dialogue and listening.  The great failure of Vatican II was that it gave so little attention to institutions needed to concretize its vision of the Church.

Francis, in yet another address:

"Peaceful coexistence between different religions is favoured by the laicity of the state, which, without appropriating any one confessional stance, respects and esteems the presence of the religious dimension in society, while fostering its more concrete expressions."


"When leaders in various fields ask me for advice, my response is always the same: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. It is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress, along with the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return. Others always have something to give me, if we know how to approach them in a spirit of openness and without prejudice. I call this attitude of openness and availability without prejudice, social humility, and it is this that favours dialogue. Only in this way can understanding grow between cultures and religions, mutual esteem without needless preconceptions, respectful of the rights of everyone. Today, either we stand together with the culture of dialogue and encounter, or we all loose, we all loose; from here we can take the right road that makes the journey fruitful and secure."



Text from page

of the Vatican Radio website 




Pope Francis has been quoted above as saying, "Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening."

In making this statement, Pope Francis credits the capitalized "Church" of 1.1 billion members, including the authority structure of the Church, with listening to other people in the world.

But he challenges the 1.1 billion members of the Church, including the authority structure of the Church, to do more that simply listen to other people.

He challenges the 1.1 billion members of the Church to walk at other people's side -- presumably to walk alongside other people of goodwill in the world.

But he hints that the 1.1 billion members of the Church, including the authoritystructure ofthe Church, are not capable of walking at other people's side, so he says that "we need a Church capable of walking at people's side."

So what all does he mean by walking at people's side?

And why isn't the Church already capable of walking at people's side? It strikes me that there is a hint of a critique of the Church in this statement.




If you missed the Mass at Copacabana Beach this morning, you can see it here, posted by Vatican News Service

Maybe wen he talks to bishops only, by "Church" pope Francis means bishops; when he talks to clergy and seminarians, by "Church" he means clergy; when he talks at Mass, by "Church" he means all Catholics; and when he gives a speech, by "Church" he means all Christians. Whoever he's talking to, he can say that "we" are the Church.

Francis, speaking to the Bishop of the CELAM conference identifies some "temptations against missionary discipleship"


1. Making the Gospel message an ideology. This is a temptation which has been present in the Church from the beginning: the attempt to interpret the Gospel apart from the Gospel itself and apart from the Church. An example: Aparecida, at one particular moment, felt this temptation. It employed, and rightly so, the method of “see, judge and act” (cf. No. 19). The temptation, though, was to opt for a way of “seeing” which was completely “antiseptic”, detached and unengaged, which is impossible. The way we “see” is always affected by the way we direct our gaze. There is no such thing as an “antiseptic” hermeneutics. The question was, rather: How are we going to look at reality in order to see it? Aparecida replied: With the eyes of discipleship. This is the way Nos. 20-32 are to be understood. There are other ways of making the message an ideology, and at present proposals of this sort are appearing in Latin America and the Caribbean. I mention only a few:


a) Sociological reductionism. This is the most readily available means of making the message an ideology. At certain times it has proved extremely influential. It involves an interpretative claim based on a hermeneutics drawn from the social sciences. It extends to the most varied fields, from market liberalism to Marxist categorization.


b) Psychologizing. Here we have to do with an elitist hermeneutics which ultimately reduces the “encounter with Jesus Christ” and its development to a process of growing self- awareness. It is ordinarily to be found in spirituality courses, spiritual retreats, etc. It ends up being an immanent, self-centred approach. It has nothing to do with transcendence and consequently, with missionary spirit.


c) The Gnostic solution. Closely linked to the previous temptation, it is ordinarily found in elite groups offering a higher spirituality, generally disembodied, which ends up in a preoccupation with certain pastoral “quaestiones disputatae”. It was the first deviation in the early community and it reappears throughout the Church’s history in ever new and revised versions. Generally its adherents are known as “enlightened Catholics” (since they are in fact rooted in the culture of the Enlightenment).


d) The Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful. In Latin America it is usually to be found in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in tendencies to doctrinal or disciplinary “safety”. Basically it is static, although it is capable of inversion, in a process of regression. It seeks to “recover” the lost past.


2. Functionalism. Its effect on the Church is paralyzing. More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road. A functionalist approach has no room for mystery; it aims at efficiency. It reduces the reality of the Church to the structure of an NGO. What counts are quantifiable results and statistics. The Church ends up being run like any other business organization. It applies a sort of “theology of prosperity” to the organization of pastoral work.


3. Clericalism is also a temptation very present in Latin America. Curiously, in the majority of cases, it has to do with a sinful complicity: the priest clericalizes the lay person and the lay person kindly asks to be clericalized, because deep down it is easier. The phenomenon of clericalism explains, in great part, the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in a good part of the Latin American laity. Either they simply do not grow (the majority), or else they take refuge in forms of ideology like those we have just seen, or in partial and limited ways of belonging. Yet in our countries there does exist a form of freedom of the laity which finds expression in communal experiences: Catholic as community. Here one sees a greater autonomy, which on the whole is a healthy thing, basically expressed through popular piety. The chapter of the Aparecida document on popular piety describes this dimension in detail. The spread of bible study groups, of ecclesial basic communities and of Pastoral Councils is in fact helping to overcome clericalism and to increase lay responsibility.


We could continue by describing other temptations against missionary discipleship, but I consider these to be the most important and influential at present for Latin America and the Caribbean.


5. Some ecclesiological guidelines


1. The missionary discipleship which Aparecida proposed to the Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean is the journey which God desires for the present “today”. 


Text from page

of the Vatican Radio website 

Bishop = Bishops

More from Francis in that speech:

"3. In practice, do we make the lay faithful sharers in the Mission? Do we offer them the word of God and the sacraments with a clear awareness and conviction that the Holy Spirit makes himself manifest in them?


4. Is pastoral discernment a habitual criterion, through the use of Diocesan Councils? Do such Councils and Parish Councils, whether pastoral or financial, provide real opportunities for lay people to participate in pastoral consultation, organization and planning? The good functioning of these Councils is critical. I believe that on this score, we are far behind.


5. As pastors, bishops and priests, are we conscious and convinced of the mission of the lay faithful and do we give them the freedom to continue discerning, in a way befitting their growth as disciples, the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them? Do we support them and accompany them, overcoming the temptation to manipulate them or infantilize them? Are we constantly open to letting ourselves be challenged in our efforts to advance the good of the Church and her mission in the world?


6. Do pastoral agents and the faithful in general feel part of the Church, do they identify with her and bring her closer to the baptized who are distant and alienated?



Text from page

of the Vatican Radio website 

Francis' comment about pastoral councils reminded me of my uneasiness last week when our pastor announced at Mass that he had consulted with the pastoral council and "he" had decided to change the Mass schedule. 

Technically, that is correct. If everyone on the pastoral council was opposed to changing the Mass schedule, he could still do it on his own - his obligation is only to consult them, not to follow their advice..

I haven't heard of any disagreement about the new Mass schedule so this came across as "even though the Pastoral Council and I agreed on this issue, I want to make sure that you understand that I get to make the decisions in the end"

Unfortunate. "We have decided to change the Mass schedule" would have been more respectful to the Council (I am not involved). 

"Leonardo Boff, a prominent liberation theologian who was reprimanded in the 1980s by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI , said Francis was repositioning the Catholic Church “from a fortress to an open house.”


“We’re exiting two papacies characterized by the return to great discipline and the control of doctrines,” Mr. Boff, 74, a former Franciscan priest, wrote during the pope’s visit. “With Pope Francis, coming from outside old European Christianity, he brings hope and enjoyment of life.”


Regarding simplicity - the Holy Father himself has a very simple and direct way of speaking.  His homilies don't seem to be nearly as dense as those of his two predecessors. I like the direct simplicity.

"The real problem is that there aren't sufficient institutions for such dialogue and listening.  The great failure of Vatican II was that it gave so little attention to institutions needed to concretize its vision of the Church."

JAK --

Have there ever been in the history of the Church institutions which provide the opportunity for the theologians, lower clergy and laity to insist on dialogue with the bishops?  How did Augustine get to know his flock's thinking? 

In the Middle Ages at least the theologians were expected to answered questions from the laity on certain occations.  Aquinas, for instance, answered all sorts of questions directly from the public (e.g., "Is it true that the baby Jesus fashioned the stars with His own hands?")  As I remember the questioning was held on certain feast days in open fields, but I could be mis-remembering that.

When have the bishops been available, if ever, to dialogue?  Or just answer questions?  

What sort of institution for such dialogue would be practical for today?  Something using the internet maybe?

John H. --

Thanks for Francis' speech.  ISTM it shows he will take action only after thinking about the problems at hand in depth and systematically.  Curia, look out!  A different sort of intelligence from Benedict's. 

What sort of institution for such dialogue would be practical for today?  Something using the internet maybe


Definitely! The analogy with Aquinas is a good thing. The "landscape" is different but the principle is the same. We all need to have vital relationships and meaningful exchanges with all of us who take faith seriously. The internet, blogs, etc. can be effective forums for this to occurr. It does take some getting used to and there are drawback but pluses. For example, the communication can be disembodied although that is both a a plus and drawback.

Experimentation is occurring and it will take some time for it to be incorporated.

Bottom line, where there is a will there is a way. If there are no institutional vehicles for dialogue it is because there was no real desire to have dialogue in the first place!

Any leader who really wants dialogue can have it and access it. Not a complicated problem.

His homilies don't seem to be nearly as dense as those of his predecessor

And, if I may add, not as precise. There is more redundancy and less clear accuracy. Maybe that is much more effective for public speaking to a general audience.

His speech to the bishops is extraordinary. When was the last time a pope gave such a strong push for pastoral councils? But there are many other novel suggestions, things I don't think I have heard in my lifetime. How about that on the role of bishops: 

The Bishop has to be among his people in three ways: in front of them, pointing the way; among them, keeping them together and preventing them from being scattered; and behind them, ensuring that no one is left behind, but also, and primarily, so that the flock itself can sniff out new paths.

Amazing. Just amazing. Can the church institution become something other than an obstacle in the  way of people who are trying to think or do new things?

Encouraged by that stance, people now ought to start voicing their ideas. What have they been keeping to themselves for fear of condemnation?

Now, translating that encouragement to action: will there be any change in the way in which the CDF comes after theologians who are trying out new paths? 



The real problem is that there aren't sufficient institutions for such dialogue and listening.

That is a problem, but is it not a consequence of a prior and greater problem, a simple reluctance to listen rooted in the old belief, still powerful but now often unspoken, that lay people are not called to participate in any effective way in the governance of the Church, their role being to listen and say "Amen"? And pay the bills, of course.

Like the teacher who is said to appear when the student is ready, institutions for dialogue will arise almost effortlessly when they are genuinely desired. But let everyone understand, real dialogue brings with it the risk of having to acknowledge that your interlocutor is right and you are wrong.

Ann:   Newman made your point about the Middle Ages.  Two paragraphs, one from a letter, the other from his Apologia:

Why was it that the Medieval Schools were so vigorous? becaus they were allowed free and fair play--because the disputants were not made to feel the bit in their mouths at every word they spoke, but could move their limbs freely and expatiate at will. Then, when they were wrong, a stronger and truer intellect set them down--and, as time went on, if the dispute got perilous, and a controversialist obstinate, then at length Rome interfered--at length, not at first--Truth is wrought out by many minds, working together freely. As far as I can make out, this has ever been the rule of the Church till now when the first French Revolution having destroyed the Schools of Europe, a sort of centralization has been established at headquarters--and the individual thinker in France, England, or Germany is brought into immediate collision with the most sacred authorities of the Divine Polity (Letters and Diaries, XX, p. 426.).

I do not see then how any objection about the narrowness of theology comes into our question, which simply is, whether the belief in an Infallible authority destroys the independence of the mind; and I consider that the whole history of the Church, and especially the history of the theological schools, gives a negative to the accusation. There never was a time when the intellect of the educated class was more active, or rather more restless, than in the middle ages. And then again all through Church history from the first, how slow is authority in interfering! Perhaps a local teacher, or a doctor in some local school, hazards a proposition, and a controversy ensues. It smoulders or burns in one place, no one interposing; Rome simply lets it alone. Then it comes before a Bishop; or some priest, or some professor in some other seat of learning takes it up; and then there is a second stage of it. Then it comes before a University, and it may be condemned by the theological faculty. So the controversy proceeds year after year, and Rome is still silent. An appeal perhaps is next made to a seat of authority inferior to Rome; and then at last after a long while it comes before the supreme power. Meanwhile, the question has been ventilated and turned over and over again, and viewed on every side of it, and {358} authority is called upon to pronounce a decision, which has already been arrived at by reason. But even then, perhaps the supreme authority hesitates to do so, and nothing is determined on the point for years; or so generally and vaguely, that the whole controversy has to be gone through again, before it is ultimately determined. It is manifest how a mode of proceeding, such as this, tends not only to the liberty, but to the courage, of the individual theologian or controversialist. Many a man has ideas, which he hopes are true, and useful for his day, but he <is not confident about them, and> wishes to have them discussed. He is willing or rather would be thankful to give them up, if they can be proved to be erroneous or dangerous, and by means of controversy he obtains his end. He is answered, and he yields; or <on the contrary> he finds that he is considered safe. He would not dare to do this, if he knew an authority, which was supreme and final, was watching every word he said, and made signs of assent or dissent to each sentence, as he uttered it. Then indeed he would be fighting, as the Persian soldiers, under the lash, and the freedom of his intellect might truly be said to be beaten out of him. But this has not been so:—I do not mean to say that, when controversies run high, in schools or even in small portions of the Church, an interposition may not rightly take place; and again, questions may be of that urgent nature, that an appeal must, as a matter of duty, be made at once to the highest authority in the Church; but, if we look into the history of controversy, we shall find, I think, the general run of things to be such as I have represented it (Apologia, 357-58).

The reference in the letter to centralization is important. In the nineteenth century, while resisting the move in secular political and social life towards the omni-competent centralized State (e.g., the France of the Napoleonic Code), Rome was, consciously or not, in fact adopting it for the governance of the Church. And as the secular development tended to eliminate or to emasculate intermediate bodies so that all that would remain would be the all-powerful State and the lonely individual, so in the Church intermediate bodies were increasingly deprived of significance, so that "immediate collisions" would occur between the theologian and the centralized power of Rome.

Institutional reform, I believe, has to aim at re-invigorating those intermediate instances.

I think it's just great he's calling on us to get out there and evangelize, not just sit in our parishes talking among ourselves.   Also, really appreciate the nod to the laity; wouldn't be much of a church without us. 

I like his simple sermons as well.  It's always bothered me that  while much of the Gospels is really clear and strightforward (radical, but straightforward), we've layered on so much over the centuries to make it incomprehensible.   It's one thing to enrich our understanding over time, another thing to make Jesus' message so complicated normal people can't understand it.

That's a very poignant letter from Monsignor Murnion.  Did it have an impact when it was written?

On the plane back to Rome, Francis answered questions from reporters for over an hour - and said some interesting things.

John Allen reports:

John Hayes,

"Interesting" is putting it mildly!

Lots there, but I'll just lift up this homely piece:

" As always, the ones who aren’t saints make the most noise … a single tree falling makes a sound, but a whole forest growing doesn’t.”

And of course that sound gets magnified by the media no end.


Regarding that interview on the plane,  when he said that John Paul II definitively closed the door on women priests.  That had been my understanding, but I wasn't sure: I had thought that the question  of women priests had been on the table, until John Paul the II took it off. 

If that's the case, I don't think John Paul II should be canonized.

When John Paul II used the term definitive I had the impression he was stopping short of claiming infallibility on the matter, perhaps on advice of counsel, so to speak, and trying to get the effect of an order that cannot be changed or challenged without literally making the claim. Perhaps Pope Francis has been talking to el viejo about this matter?

From the Pope's airborne news conference:

On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.

Watch those metaphors, Your Holiness. A wall is meant to be a permanent barrier. It is the nature and purpose of doors to be opened as well as closed.

From the Vatican News version of the Press Conference:


Speaking of other problems within the administration of the Holy See, including rumours of a ‘gay lobby’ within the Vatican, Pope Francis said there are many saintly people working in the Curia but also those who are not so saintly and cause scandals which harm the Church. Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he said that people with homosexual tendencies must not be excluded but should be integrated into society. “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” he asked.


Questioned about the role of women in the Church, the Pope said the issue of ordination is ‘a closed door’ but he said he would like to see more women in leadership roles. Just as Mary was more important than the Apostles, he said, so women today are more important than bishops and priests and there is a great need for theology to explore and explain this better.


Text from page 

of the Vatican Radio website 

Andrea Torinelli - most detailed report I have seen to date - it includes some points not mentioned elsewhere.



To put women down by saying they are a special case,  wonderful, admirable, " important" . . .  but of course not suited to some roles within the Church--doesn't that marginalize them quite effectively?. It's a very old trick, and it works. So much for outreach?

The version from is more specific than the Vatican News version regarding the quote on women:

"The Church has discussed the ordination of women bishops [emphasis mine] and has decided against it. John Paul II gave a definitive answer to this so that door is closed."



here is the Italian: "Per quanto riguarda l'ordinazione delle donne, la Chiesa ha parlato e ha detto no. Giovanni Paolo II si è pronunciato con una formulazione definitiva, quella porta è chiusa."

And hre's the Spanish: "En cuanto a las ordenaciones de las mujeres, la Iglesia ha hablado y ha dicho que no. Juan Pablo II se pronunció con una formulación definitiva, esa puerta está cerrada."

I'm not sure what language he answered the question in; but he certainly did not say "bishops."

'Is pastoral discernment a habitual criterion, through the use of Diocesan Councils? Do such Councils and Parish Councils, whether pastoral or financial, provide real opportunities for lay people to participate in pastoral consultation, organization and planning? The good functioning of these Councils is critical. I believe that on this score, we are far behind."

How easy it is to change the meaning of a sentence completely by inserting or omitting a single word.

I should know better, but with this pope I never know what to expect any more. People put words in his mouth, and I can't even tell! I imagine his staff must be nervous.


(Please reinstate the edit feature … please!)


As I thought I was going to say:

Canon Law only mandates Finance Councils, not Pastoral Councils.  Even that mandate is so loosely defined and enforced, that it is the rare FC that has any meaningful effect on the local scene.  The parish pastor completely controls who will serve, how often they will meet and the effect, if any, of their recommendations (not decisions).  If he doesn’t like what he hears, he can replace individual members or total membership.  In way too many cases FCs are nothing more than ….  “a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his (their) hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I have been a member of 2 FCs in the same parish.  The first was treated by the pastor as a contributing partner and he took our recommendations seriously.  He was replaced and the new man simply ignored what we recommended.  He didn’t even attend the meetings.  The membership finally resigned in disgust and he didn’t even replace the FC for 18 months.  The parish membership itself had absolutely no say whatsoever in the financial or other secular management of the parish.

Need I say that contributions dropped off precipitously, necessitating staff cutbacks and layoffs?

On the issue of women's ordination I have no reason to doubt that Francis really means he is not interested in revising, reexamining JPII's "definitive" teaching. 

Certainly a big part of me wishes this weren't so and women would join the clerical class pronto. 

But stepping back, taking something of the long view (but hopefully not too long), I am very interested in Francis's repeated condemnations of clericalism and his very clear call to give women more leadership roles in the Church.

I wonder if there is any chance we could see a change in canon law, going back to pre-1917 rules which allowed for lay Cardinals?  Of course, along with that change, would have to be the more revolutionary change of admitting women to the College.  None of the weak theological arguments against women priests would have any relevance.  Being a Cardinal, an advisor and elector, has nothing to do with acting in persona Christi.  And really, the only reason lay women never had this role pre-1917 is due to historical sexism, which the Church rightly recognizes as sinful. 

We need this movement in the Church -- Lay Cardinal Women Right-away. L.C.W.R. -- Where have I seen those initials before?   I am using "lay" to mean someone not given major orders -- obviously women in religious life would be some of the most likely women candidates.  Joan Cardinal Chittister comes to mind.

By the way, the head of the USCCB and Fr. Imbelli's boss is on the record saying there is no theological reason for excluding women from the College of Cardinals.

I was reminded of these words of pope Francis in his address to the leadership of the CELAM:

God is real and he shows himself in the “today”. With regard to the past, his presence is given to us as “memory” of his saving work, both in his people and in each of us as individuals; with regard to the future, he gives himself to us as “promise” and hope. In the past God was present and left his mark: memory helps us to encounter him; in the future is promise alone… he is not in the thousand and one “futuribles”. The “today” is closest to eternity; even more: the “today” is a flash of eternity. In the “today”, eternal life is in play.

when I saw this succinct quote in the Tel-Aviv museum of the diaspora (quote from Abba Kovner, WWII concentration camp survivor):

"Remember the past, live the present, trust the future." 

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