Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has said that were he to start a church he would “love to have women priests”.
The outspoken remarks came during an interview with 60 Minutes on American television network CBS.
Asked by reporter Norah O’Donnell whether excluding women from the Church hierarchy was immoral, Cardinal O’Malley said, “Christ would never ask us to do something immoral. It’s a matter of vocation and what God has given to us.”
He said: “Not everyone needs to be ordained to have an important role in the life of the Church. Women run Catholic charities, Catholic schools … They have other very important roles. A priest can’t be a mother. The tradition in the Church is that we ordain men.”
He then added: “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests,” O’Malley said. “But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.”
In the interview Cardinal O’Malley also called the Vatican’s investigation into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and efforts to reform the organisation “a disaster”.
An assessment by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called for the reform to ensure LCWR’s fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.
Asked if he thought women should be in more positions of responsibility in the Curia, Cardinal O’Malley replied, “Yes. I think there should be. And — hopefully, there will be.”
He offered no timetable as to when that could happen. “I can’t tell you what time, but – hopefully soon, you know,” he said.
Cardinal O’Malley also said that the Vatican needs to “urgently” address the situation of Bishop Robert W Finn of Kansas City who was convicted in 2012 on one misdemeanour count of failing to report suspected child abuse.
Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking US Catholic official to face criminal charges related to the priest sex abuse scandal that erupted within the US Church in 2002. In the Bishop Finn case, diocesan authorities who had been told in December 2010 of child pornography found on a priest’s computer did not tell civil authorities until six months afterward.
“It’s a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently,” Cardinal O’Malley said, before adding, “There’s a recognition of that… from Pope Francis.”
Cardinal O’Malley leads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, established last December by Pope Francis. The cardinal’s appointment to the Archdiocese of Boston, as well as to the Dioceses of West Palm Beach, Florida, and Fall River, Massachusetts, followed the outbreak of clerical sex abuse scandals in each of those dioceses. He is one of nine members of the members of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis on the reform of the Roman Curia and governance of the Church.
“We’re looking at how the Church could have protocols — how to respond when a bishop has not been responsible for the protection of children in his diocese,” Cardinal O’Malley said.