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Newark’s Uncertain Trumpet

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This is a thoroughly depressing interview by Nicholas Kristof with Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Archbishop of Newark. If this is the best the Pope Francis church can offer, it’s going nowhere. Look:

Kristof: One area where the Catholic Church seems to me antiquated is gender. If Jesus trusted women like Mary Magdalene, if Phoebe could be a leader of the early church, then why can’t women be priests or cardinals today?

Tobin: Those are two different questions. Regarding priests, it really is a stumbling block for people, and especially in this country and in this culture, as all areas of life are opening up to women that this particular ministry in the Catholic Church is not. So I understand the consternation. I have eight sisters. I know for some women this sort of stumbling block takes them away from the church.

As for cardinals, most are bishops but not all of them. As recently as the 19th century there were lay people who were cardinals.

So will we see women cardinals soon?

Maybe my theology isn’t sophisticated enough, but I don’t believe that there’s a compelling theological reason why the pope couldn’t name a woman cardinal.

Pope Francis has promised to find a more incisive role for women in the church. There are isolated incidents of women being appointed to fairly influential posts in the Roman Curia. I think it’s got to be more than that.


I have huge admiration for Catholic nuns, priests and laity working on the front lines all over the world to fight poverty, disease, injustice. Those people are doing exactly what Jesus talked about. But, so often, religious leaders, including those in the Vatican, seem less focused on the needy and more on issues that Jesus never breathed a word about, like gays, or abortion, or family planning.

It’s fair to say Jesus did not make pronouncements on those three hot-button issues. I think, though, that he gave us an ethos and a moral direction, so we don’t have to sit down and say, “Jesus, what do we do?” Catholic tradition didn’t fall out of the air and decide something capricious. It’s based on all sorts of lived experience of people trying to follow Jesus closely.

And this:

In previous Q. & A.’s, I asked Rev. Tim Keller and President Jimmy Carter whether a skeptic like myself, who admires Jesus’ moral teachings but doubts the virgin birth and any physical resurrection, counts as a Christian. Basically, Keller said “no,” and Carter “yes,” so you’re the tiebreaker. Am I a Christian?

I would think that if you haven’t completely closed the door on the possibility that God has more to say to you, then I think you’re in the tent.

Read the whole thing. Is it just me, or is that milquetoast boilerplate? Especially that last answer. Kristof denies the virgin birth and the resurrection. He is not a Christian. Since when do Catholic cardinals say that it is permissible to deny the virgin birth and the resurrection, and still call yourself a Christian?

I recognize that it is impossible to be expansive in the short format Kristof provides, but surely a Roman Catholic cardinal can do better than this? Surely. There is more of what Catholicism actually teaches in the responses the Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller gave to Kristof than in what one of Pope Francis’s cardinals said. As St. Paul put it in his first letter to the Corinthians: “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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