Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Sacred College of Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Currently there are a number of Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church who are archbishops emeritus and whose successors have not (yet) been created cardinals in their own right. In order to be able to participate in a conclave, a cardinal has be younger than 80 when the Holy See becomes vacant, which normally occurs when a pope dies. Of 185 living cardinals, 113 are currently under 80 years of age. According to the Apostolic Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis, promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1996, the number of cardinal electors should not exceed 120. Not having more than 120 electors at any one time is something that Pope Benedict XVI takes seriously. He is also reluctant to elevate the current occupant of an important archiepiscopal see to the Sacred College until his predecessor is superannuated, that is, turns 80. This is not necessarily the case with curial positions, especially when a new prefect is appointed to oversee a Roman Congregation. It remains to be seen if this will hold true for the heads of Pontifical Councils, or even if all heads of these councils will continue to be created cardinals.

At present there are 15 cardinals who are retired archbishops and one retired Swiss cardinal who was a bishop, due to the fact that Switzerland does not have even one archdiocese, whose successors have not been created cardinals. It is a safe bet that in most of these cases the successor not already being created a cardinal is due to the emeritus being younger than 80. Over the next twelve months seven of these retired cardinal archbishops will turn 80: Cardinal Ambrozic of Toronto, Canada; Cardinal Di Giorgi of Palermo, Sicily; Cardinal Glemp of Warsaw, Poland; Cardinal Maida of Detroit, U.S.; Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, U.S.; Cardinal Tumi of Douala, Cameroon; Cardinal Williams of Wellington, New Zealand. Their successors respectively are Archbishops Thomas Collins, Paolo Romeo, Kazimierz Nycz, Allen Vigneron, Donald Wuerl, Samuel Kleda, and John Dew. Some of these successors, perhaps Archbishop Vigneron of Detroit, may not receive the red hat even once their predecessor turns 80, due largely to shifting demographics. This is what happened with the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which was known at one time as “the Rome of the West” and was led by three cardinal archbishops from 1946 to 1979. In any case, it is a given that most, if not all, of these archbishops will be elevated to the Sacred College at the next consistory convened by the Holy Father.

Currently One Roman Congregation (for the Causes of Saints) has an emeritus cardinal prefect whose successor is not yet a cardinal. There are also three Pontifical Councils (i.e., Culture, Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, and Legislative Texts ), along with the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See that have emeritus heads who are cardinals and current heads who are not. The curial emeriti who turn 80 in the next year are Cardinals Herranz and Poupard, the emeritus presidents of the Pontifical Councils for Legislative Texts and Culture respectively. The Apostolic Signatura’s prefect emeritus is a cardinal over 80, which makes it a sure bet that Archbishop Raymond Burke, the current prefect, will be created a cardinal in the next consistory, as will Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, even though the prefect emeritus has more than two years before turning 80.

If the Pope were to convene a consistory for the purpose of creating new cardinals next year, there would likely be nine to eleven new members of the Sacred College. Judging by recent consistories, this would be too small a number. Waiting another year would increase the number by four to six, not including those few who might receive the cardinal red after the age of 80 in recognition of their contribution to the church, thus making 2011 a better bet for the next consistory.

I give a deep diaconal bow to Catholic Hierarchy for doing such a wonderful job of providing so much valuable information on a continuously updated basis. It is an effort worthy of your financial support. This morning I added the Catholic Hierarchy news blog to my blog feed.

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