A few years from now.
A young priest in a long black cassock walks briskly down a long, dimly lit corridor of the Vatican that connects to the Domus Sanctae Marthae. It takes all of his effort not to break into a run. He proceeds through a series of large wooden doors. Finally, he emerges through the last door. Just for a moment, he is temporarily blinded by the mid-morning sun. His eyes adjust quickly and settle upon an anxious looking Cardinal standing in front of a highly secure motorcade. Under strict surveillance and secrecy, this motorcade will transport the Cardinals in conclave to the Sistine Chapel.
The anxious Cardinal Camerlango spies the young priest and quickly, but discreetly, approaches him.
Cardinal – “For heavens sake, where are they? We cannot elect a Pope if half of the Cardinals are missing. Tell me Father, where are they? What did they say?”
Young Priest – “uh….um….they said…they said…”
Cardinal – “Oh come on man, spit it out. What did they say?”
Young Priest – “Um…they said….they said they will be a few more minutes…..they are still doing their hair!”
After a few moments of stunned silence…
Cardinal – “This is no way to elect a Pope!”
Such would be the scene if German Jesuit Father Eberhard von Gemminger had his way. In an interview with the Italian daily “Il Messaggero”, the director of the German language programming for Vatican Radio advocated for female Cardinals and expressed his heartfelt hope that one day in the near future, perhaps within ten years, fully half the college of Cardinals would be women.
In the past centuries, members of the laity were eligible to become cardinals but current Church law stipulates that cardinals must be priests or bishops.
The German Jesuit argued that throughout history it has not been necessary to be a priest in order to be named a cardinal. Therefore, “Why not think that in the future there will be women cardinals?” he asked. “Why not dream that sixty illustrious women could elect the Pope? I would be happy to see sixty male and sixty female cardinals in the Sistine Chapel,”
Well, I for one can think of one very good reason that this is a bad idea. Can you imagine that during a critical point during a future conclave, that one female Cardinal turns to another and says “I have to go to the bathroom, want to come?” and some sixty cardinal electors all go to the bathroom together. This is no way to elect a Pope.