DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Cardinal Joseph Tobin is advocating for female cardinals.
In a New York Times interview published December 22, the head of the Newark, New Jersey diocese said he finds no "compelling theological reason why the pope couldn't name a woman cardinal."
The question had been put to him by Nicholas Kristoff, who asked, "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?"
Rather than explaining the Church's position on an all-male priesthood, Tobin suggested the idea should be abolished.
"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," he said. "So I understand the consternation."
He went on to explain that the Church had made laity cardinals as late as the 19th century. "Maybe my theology isn't sophisticated enough," he continued, "but I don’t believe that there's a compelling theological reason why the pope couldn't name a woman cardinal."
Explaining that Pope Francis has promised a more prominent role for women, he made clear it was not enough that they be given important roles in the Curia. "I think it's got to be more than that," he insisted.
Tobin also brushed off discussion of homosexuality, abortion and contraception. "It's fair to say Jesus did not make pronouncements on those three hot-button issues," he remarked, going on to make clear his priorities lie with immigration.
"I'm really worried about this country for a lot of reasons, but I'm particularly concerned about refugees and immigrants," he told Kristof. "I really think this present administration is moving clearly toward a mass deportation. My people are already terrorized. I am so afraid that unless we can find a way of changing hearts, they're going to go ahead with it."
Tobin received the red hat by Pope Francis, and has made a reputation for himself as a left-leaning prelate in the mold of Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich or San Diego's Bp. Robert McElroy. Tobin caused scandal earlier this year when he welcomed and gave his blessing to an LGBT pilgrimage and Mass in his cathedral, avoiding any mention of Church teaching on chastity during his homily.
LGBT attendees reacted with the assumption that the Church no longer requires gays to live chastely.
"I've been waiting 25 years for this," said self-professed homosexual Thomas M. Smith. "I'm a deacon in the church and I've had to be careful. And afraid."
Filled with emotion as he recalled his parents belief that he "would go to Hell if he found someone to love," Smith remarked, "This is amazing to me."
Tobin has also been among the handful of cardinals who endorsed Fr. James Martin's book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, criticized by others — including Cdl. Robert Sarah, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship — for its deliberate failure to mention Church teaching on chastity.
The New Jersey cardinal has also been among the few vocal prelates to criticize the dubia cardinals, saying last year in the liberal UK magazine The Tablet, "The Holy Father is capturing the work of two synods, so if four cardinals say that two synods were wrong, or that somehow the Holy Father didn't reflect what was said in those synods, I think that should be questioned."