The German theologian Karl-Heinz Menke – one of the members of the new papal commission on female deacons – said in a 4 August 2016 interview (http://www.welt.de/kultur/article157489723/Wenn-Franziskus-will-waeren-Kardinaelinnen-moeglich.html) with the German newspaper Die Welt that female cardinals are possible if that is what Pope Francis wishes.
The retired professor of theology – who also was appointed in 2014 by Pope Francis to be a member of the International Theological Commission – points out in this interview that it is out of the question to make women ordained deaconesses because it would mean that they would become part of the three-fold Sacrament of Holy Orders which applies to bishops, priests and deacons.
Professor Menke also shows that female deacons in the past merely filled charitable positions within the Church which have now been largely taken up by religious orders, at least in the West. Female deacons in the East, according to Menke, are still only performing charitable acts.
Thus, Menke says, female deacons would still be excluded from the higher role of ordained deacons and would thereby still feel “being put behind.”
Without being more specific, the German theologian sees it as a possibility to allow women “to perform baptisms,” and “to assist at funerals and marriages,” because these parts “are not necessarily, but only factually, bound to the recipients of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.” Menke continues:
If the pope wishes it, he can transfer these functions also to future deaconesses. The Church’s Law would have to be changed by the pope accordingly. Dogmatically, this is permitted. If the pope wishes it, he can, for example, determine that the Cardinalate (which includes the right to elect the pope) is not only open to the recipients of the Sacrament of Holy Orders – and thus men – but also to women. The pope could determine that all offices in the Church’s bureaucracy and in the Church commissions (for example, in the cathedral chapter) which are [hierarchically] below the bishop and his general vicar have to be equally occupied by men and women.