May 302010

Precedence (or seniority) within the College of Cardinals is artificial and basically to do with status and standing, particularly so when it comes to ceremonial purposes — given that as of 1962 all cardinals, unless explicitly exempted by a pope, have to be consecrated bishops (and as such are, in the main, distinguished senior prelates to begin with). Precedence thus determines factors such as the order in which ballots are cast during a conclave and who gets to go ahead of whom when paying homage to a newly elected pope.

Precedence is based on the three ‘orders’ of cardinalate, viz. bishops, priests and deacons – in descending order, starting with the cardinal bishops, with the Dean and Sub-Dean of the College (who are always cardinal bishops) being the most senior.

Each new cardinal is created within one of the three orders based on his then ecclesiastical function. Cardinals appointed from dioceses, around the world, typically bishops or archbishops, are made cardinal priests. Curial officials and eminent theologians are created as cardinal deacons. The most senior of curial officials (in some cases retired) are assigned to one of the six suburbicarian sees – thus making them (along with any Eastern Rites Patriarchs) cardinal bishops.

Since the early thirteen century there has, however, been a preferment mechanism, known as jus optionis (right of option), which enabled the senior most cardinals to move up to a higher order when titles became vacant (or even move to different titles within the same order) – subject, of course, to papal approval. This enabled cardinals gain precedence, or in the case of a transfer within an order, to be associated with more ‘desirable’ title – ‘desirable,’ in this case, most likely having to do with the potential revenues/assets, status or location of a title.

The pope, however, has always had the power and the right to promote cardinals, unilaterally, independent of jus optionis. A curial cardinal deacon if appointed as Archbishop (or possibly the Patriarch of Venice or Lisbon) will most likely, possibly even ‘automatically,’ be elevated to being a cardinal priest — with a fairly good chance that his existing deaconry will be elevated, for the duration of his tenure, pro hac vice into a title. [Refer to this post for more on pro hac vice elevations.] Italian Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe (b. June 2, 1943) provides a recent example of this. In February 2001 he was created a cardinal deacon while holding a curial post. Two months later he was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In May 2006, Benedict XVI named him the Metropolitan Archbishop of Naples [Italy]. He was at the same time elevated to a cardinal priest, his deaconry, Dio Padre misericordioso, elevated to a title pro hac vice.

John XXIII Changed The Rules In 1961
In 1961, John XXIII (#262), with his Ad Suburbicarias Dioeceses motu proprio, overrode the jus optionis scheme that had been in place since 1586. Per Ad Suburbicarias Dioeceses the senior most cardinal priest or deacon no longer had the right to opt for a vacant suburbicarian see [i.e., to seek promotion to be a cardinal bishop]. Henceforth, the filling of a vacant suburbicarian see would be a prerogative of the pope, who could do so by creating a new cardinal or by promoting any of the existing cardinals, irrespective of their seniority.

John, with his characteristic flair, demonstrated the new norm by immediately promoting Cardinal Giuseppe Antonio Ferretto to be a Cardinal Bishop [of the see of Sabina e Poggio Mirteto] – though he, having been created a cardinal priest just three months prior, was the most junior of the cardinals.

This decree by John is still the prevailing norm.

This was another one of John’s very incisively astute moves. It ensured that he, and hopefully his successors if they too were so inclined, could globalize the highest echelons of the College. Between 1900 and 1961 there had only been ONE non-Italian cardinal bishop, that being France’s hugely talented and bearded Eugène Tisserant [1884-1972]. Since John’s ruling, 11 of the 25 cardinal bishops have been non-Italian.

In total there have been 60 cardinal bishops since 1900. 48 have been Italian. So John’s change to jus optionis has made quite a difference.

Of these 60 cardinal bishops since 1900, none were created cardinal bishops to begin with, though the pope had always had the option of creating cardinal bishops, provided that there were vacant suburbicarian sees, even prior to the 1961 edict. The last time a pope appeared to have created a cardinal bishop was in April 1449 when Nicholas V (#209) made his one-time rival, antipope Felix (V), the Bishop of Santa Sabina, when the antipope renounced his title and retracted his prior condemnations. [It is possible that there have been other cardinal bishop creations since then, but I have yet to find them, in what, at best, has been somewhat cursory, haphazard research. Come on, there is only so much I can look into at any one time. Working on about five parallel streams right now.]

In 1914, Pius X (#258), had made a smaller change to jus optionis – albeit this time overriding a right that had existed from the original thirteen century rules. As of 1914 there would be no inter-see translations for the cardinal bishops – albeit with Ostia always being assigned to the new Dean, per the by then well entrenched tradition. Pius X also pooled together the assets and revenues of all seven suburbicarian sees and decreed that these would be centrally managed via the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith. The suffragan (‘auxillary’) bishops, tasked with administering these sees as of 1910, were each assigned an annual of remuneration of 6,000 lire (~US $1,200 per then exchange rate). The remaining income was then divided into seven parts, the Dean getting two of these (for his two sees) and the other five bishops one part each.

Meteoric Elevations Prior To John XXIII’s 1961 Rule Change
The first half of the twentieth century appears to have been a great time to have been a cardinal. The maximum size of the College, per Sixtus V’s (#228) landmark 1586 Postquam verus constitution, was being maintained at 70 (until John XXIII serenely dismissed this cap at his very first consistory in 1958). To have less than 65 cardinals was not unusual during this era. Pius XII (#261), in particular, was unusually parsimonious when it came to creating cardinals, only creating 56 during his nearly 20 year (235 month) papacy. << Read this article >> At the end of Pius XII’s reign there were only 53 cardinals.

The near constant vacancies within the College during this period permitted cardinals to exploit jus optionis to rise very quickly through the ranks, particularly if you were an Italian cardinal living in or around Rome. [In 1939 35 of the 62 cardinals were Italian].

Italian Cardinal Gennaro Granito Pignatelli di Belmonte was created a cardinal priest in November 1911. He opted to become a cardinal bishop, four years later, in December 1915.

Italian Cardinal Francesco Marchetti Selvaggiani was created a cardinal priest on June 30, 1930. He opted to be a cardinal bishop on June 15, 1936.

The above mentioned French cardinal Eugène Tisserant went from cardinal deacon to cardinal bishop in just under 10 years between 1936 and 1946.

Italian Benedetto Aloisi Masella was created a cardinal priest in February 1946. He opted to be a cardinal bishop in June 1948. He was a cardinal priest for but 28 months.

Italian Clemente Micara was created a cardinal priest on February 18, 1946. He opted to be a cardinal bishop, of Velletri, but also retaining his original title (at the indulgence of the pope), on June 13, 1946. He was a cardinal priest for 146 days!

Jus Optionis In The 1983 Code Of Canon Law
The jus optionis rulings of Pius X and John are now reflected in Canon 350 §5 & §6.

Per this Canon, cardinal priests may transfer to another title and cardinal deacons to another diaconia – based on seniority and papal approval.

A cardinal deacon with ten full years of tenure can request to be made cardinal priest – with his precedence within the new order being based on his original day of creation. This option of getting promoted to the presbyteral order [i.e., priestly] is very popular and has been widely used – cardinals, since 1961, no longer having the right to seek promotion to the episcopal [i.e., bishopric] order.

Suffice to say that as of 1961 elevation within the College has been more sedate and more cosmopolitan.

The Evolution of Jus Optionis
The major milestones when it comes to jus optionis are as follows:

> Early thirteenth century: the original rules come to be.

> 1555: Paul IV (#224), with his Cum venerabiles constitution, specifies new rules for the Dean and Cardinal deacons.

> 1586: Sixtus V (#228), with his far-reaching Postquam verus constitution, lays out more stringent requirements for cardinal deacons and their preferment – possibly, in part, to atone for the creation of his fourteen year old grand-nephew who as far as can be seen was never ordained, though he went on to become a cardinal bishop

> 1731: Clement XII (#247) formulated the precedence structure for the College.

> 1914: The Pius X change discussed above.

> 1961: The pivotal John XXIII change discussed above.

> 1965: Paul VI (#263) dictates that Dean and Sub-Dean should be elected from within the ranks of cardinal bishops by the cardinal bishops rather than it being based on seniority. See reference ‘2/‘ at the bottom.

> 1984: The new Code of Canon Law with Canon 350 §5 & §6 as discussed above.

The Initial Thirteenth Century Rules
Whenever a cardinalate was vacant, the most senior of the cardinals residing in or around Rome could opt for that title. In the case of cardinal bishops, they could, per this scheme, opt for one (and only one) transfer of bishopric during their lifetime – albeit with Ostia always reserved for the Dean.

Cardinal priests and cardinal deacons could use this option either within their order or, more significantly, to opt for a title in a higher order.


Role of cardinals in papal elections, culled from Anura Guruge's 'The Next Pope' book << click to enlarge >>

These rules made sense within the context of that time, bearing in mind:

1/ The College of Cardinals was still rather new, having only come to be as of 1150.

2/ It was only between 1139 and 1179 that all cardinals, irrespective of their order, got the right to vote in papal elections.

3/ The notion of non-resident titular cardinals had only really come to pass as of 1163.

It is, however, also worth noting that it this juncture, of the cardinals residing in and around Rome, only the cardinal bishops would have been consecrated bishops. Many of the cardinal deacons were unlikely to have been priests.


1555 Paul IV & 1586 Sixtus V Changes
Paul IV deemed that the most senior [i.e., earliest consecrated] cardinal bishop residing in or around Rome would automatically become the new Dean of the College of Cardinals (whenever that vacancy arose).

This constitution also modified jus optionis rules so that a cardinal deacon with ten years of tenure would get precedence when it came to preferment over cardinal priests created since his creation – provided that his ‘opting up’ would not reduce the number of cardinals deacons in the College to less than ten.

Sixtus V, in 1586, deemed that one needed to be at least 22 years old in order to be created a cardinal deacon and, moreover, be prepared to be ordained within a year of their creation. If they did not satisfy the ordination criteria, they would (in theory) lose their appointment. Upon being ordained, a cardinal deacon would be re-assigned as a cardinal priest (with a new title) – but only when a new cardinal deacon was created to backfill the resulting vacancy. [As in 1555, there appears to have been an underlying concern about depleting the ranks of cardinal deacons.]

The jus optionis preferment rules were also updated to state that cardinal deacons must have ten years of tenure before they could request a vacant suburbicarian see [i.e., be a cardinal bishop]. However, the cardinal protodeacon [i.e., the earliest created], provided that he was 30 years or older, could opt for a suburbicarian see if it became vacant for a third time since his creation.

In 1731 Clement XII formulated the now familiar rules of precedence within the College. Seniority within the two lower ranks is based on the date of creation (even after a jus optionis preferment to the order of priest), whereas in the case of the bishops, it is determined per the date of episcopal consecration.

Then came the 1914, 1961 and 1984 updates.

In 1965, Paul VI (#263), decreed that seniority would no longer be the basis for who would be the Dean and Sub-Dean of the College of Cardinals when these posts became vacant (though this long standing tradition had been incorporated into the 1917 Code of Canon Law). Instead, when a new Dean or Sub-Dean was required, the cardinals bishops would elect one from among their ranks – independent of seniority, albeit subject to the person elected being approved by the pope.

Also refer to these four related articles:

1/ Precedence Among Cardinal Bishops – Rationalization << click here >>

2/ Precedence Among Cardinal Bishops << click here >> Reference here to the 1965 ruling for the election of the Dean and Sub-Dean.

3/ Does Cardinal Re really have precedence over Cardinal Arinze. << click here >>

4/ Rome, you have a problem re. cardinal bishop precedence << click here >>

For more details and background please consult Anura Guruge’s February 2010 book ‘The Next Pope‘ << click here >> Free online previews from Google and Amazon available.

May 272010

Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, 1956

Pius XII (#261) is said to have refused French Cardinal Eugène Tisserant [1884-1972] permission to leave the Vatican at the outbreak of WW II when Cardinal Tisserant expressed his desire to return to France and serve in the French army.

Tisserant, in a similar fashion to Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli [future John XXIII (#262)], served as an French army intelligence officer during WW I, though he had been ordained a priest in 1907. [Angello Roncalli, ordained in 1904, was drafted into the Royal Italian Army as a sergeant, serving in initially in the medical corps as a stretcher-bearer before being made a chaplain. Pius XII did not serve in WW I since he was a relatively senior curial official by then.]

I was doing some research into cardinal bishops yesterday when I came across this statement of Pius XII’s alleged reluctance to let Cardinal Tisserant go back to France.

At face value one could immediately dismiss this as being one of brotherly love between humans, with the pope wanting to keep another human (very gifted at that) away from the dangers of war. But, I got to thinking.

There could have been another reason. Having a relatively senior cardinal, who had held curial office, serving in the French army could have had a negative impact on the German forces – nearly half of whom were devout Catholics! This was one of Hitler’s biggest fears. The potential of the Catholic church to influence his troops. In reality this never came to pass.

But, what would have been the case IF Cardinal Tisserant left the Vatican and started working for the French army?

It is something to think about – my motto in life being ‘Think Free, Or Die.’

Pius XII Definitely Had German Connections
Pius XII’s apparent inaction during WW II has by now been widely discussed and debated, particularly so after John Cornwell’s ‘not-as-detailed-as-I-would-have-liked’ Hitler’s Pope book of 1999. I have no desire to rehash those topics.

From my perspective, as a hopefully objective, with really no axe to grind papal historian, I do, however, invariably come across four hard-and-fast, irrefutable, facts about Pius XII’s relationship with Germany that always give me pause. These are:

  1. He was a nuncio to Bavaria (essentially ‘German Empire’) and then Germany as of 1917 to 1930 – a total of 29 years.
  2. The German Sister (later Mother) Pascalina Lehnert, his ‘housekeeper’ for 41 uninterrupted years, in Germany and at the Vatican, was a very close and trusted confidant despite what most would have to contend was a rather incongruous relationship.
  3. Next to Pascalina Lehnert, the Pius’s two closest confidants were both German, the Jesuit Robert Leiber and Ludwig Kass. Around 1936 Kass, exiled from Germany, took residence in the Vatican. During Pius’s papacy Leiber, Kass and Lehnert constantly revolved around the pope, like Mercury, Venus and Earth around the Sun. < Enough said. >
  4. Pius XII’s greatest achievement prior to becoming pope was the concordat that he executed with Germany, with Hitler’s support, when he was the Secretary of State.

Since this posting is mainly about the French Cardinal Tisserant, I will let him have the last word about this pope. Prior to the 1939 conclave that would elect him Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Tisserant talking to the French ambassador to the Holy See had this to say about the soon to be pope: ‘indecisive, hesitant, a man more designed to obey orders than to give them.’
< Some do say, in his defense, that this was the real reason for his lack of overt leadership during the War. >

Eugène Tisserant Was Special
Between 1900 to 1961 Eugène Tisserant was to be the only non-Italian Cardinal Bishop.

He would be the Dean of the College of Cardinals from 1951 to his death in 1972. He was an acknowledged scholar, who had studied in Jerusalem, who was fluent in many languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, Assyrian, Persian etc. He became associated with the Vatican Library as of 1919 and would eventually be the Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church (1957-1971).

He was made a Cardinal Deacon in June 1936. He was consecrated a titular archbishop a year later. Six months later, per the jus optionis rules of that time, he opted to become a cardinal priest – albeit with his deaconry temporarily elevated to that of a ‘titular’ church. He, yet again using jus optionis, opted to be a cardinal bishop in February 1946. Thus, he had gone from being a cardinal deacon to a cardinal bishop is just under 10 years. He became the Sub-Dean of the College in 1948 – mainly due to Pius XII’s hesitancy to create cardinals during his near 20 year papacy.

Tisserant was atypical in sporting a beard. Unlike the current Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, of Boston [USA], Tisserant was not a member of a religious order – this eliminating the assumption that he was unshaven per the precepts of his order.

Anura Guruge

The Pope And The Chinese

 Posted by at 10:05 pm
May 242010

Never heard of the pope?

Never seen a picture of John Paul II?

Never heard the name John Paul II?

Never seen a picture of Benedict XVI?


Maybe John Lennon was right, after all.
<< In case YOU never heard of John Lennon, he wore glasses, came from Liverpool and was shot dead in New York in 1980. His second or third wife was Japanese. >>


Today, was one of those extremely rare WOW moments for me.


I had a 26 year Chinese gentleman visiting me. I have a very obscure, hard to pinpoint networking issue, and he was somewhat of a networking expert.

Very polished. Very articulate. The IMAGE of the new China.

He is here doing a Masters at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) — an institution at which I taught both post-graduate and graduate courses.

He has been in the U.S. for two and a half years.

He has a law degree from China. He is from a village 8 hours away from Beijing.


He was asking me what I did. I showed him my (latest) book. He asked me what the picture represented. I said ‘The Vatican. St. Peter’s. The inside of St. Peter’s.’

He looked at me askance. I asked … ‘you know … the Vatican.’ He shook his head.

I said ‘Pope.’

He said ‘Pope?’

I said ‘Pope?’

He looked at me confused … and said ‘President?’

OK, I won’t go into the gory details.

We quickly established that he had NEVER heard of the word ‘pope.’

But, despite being a professional writer, I am a very visual person. So, I quickly bring up Google IMAGES and start showing him pictures of Benedict XVI.

He again asks me ‘President?’ [Me, the eternal diplomat, the son of a career diplomat, didn’t want to tell him that Obama kind of looks a bit different to Benedict XVI … ]


I was willing to believe that Benedict XVI wasn’t that notorious.

But, what about John Paul II. He was an INTERNATIONL mega-star.

So I pull up pictures of John Paul II. No reaction.

I pull up the enormously detailed entry in Wikipedia for John Paul II — studded with pictures and even a map of the countries visited by John Paul II.

I start scrolling down. He claims he has NEVER seen this guy before! He asks ME, who this guy is. There is really no answer to that question.

Then we come to a picture of John Paul II with the Dalai Lama. He immediately says … I know HIM .. the Dalai Lama.
<< I didn’t bother to tell him that my father and the Dalai Lama are very close friends. >>


I don’t want anybody making any wise cracks about this. Yes, up here in rural NH I could go out and easily find a dozen 50 years old who would not recognize the Dalai Lama. Plus, I have never met anybody in NH, in my 24 years of living here, who had heard of Sri Lanka or Ceylon. So, this is not about cultural superiority.

Plus, in case you have NOT worked it out … I am Asian too. And to be honest I don’t remember when I became aware of the Pope. No, I was not born a Catholic.

But, for me, this was pause for thought. Food for reflection.

So PLEASE think about it too.

Anura Guruge

May 232010

Please read my reply, May 23, 2010 to ‘Andrea’ on the role of the Holy Spirit in the election of popes.

I am still working on this thesis. It is high on my list of priorities. I am NOT a theologian. I
have no training in theology. But, I as somebody who started computer programming in 1969, I do have a fairly good grasp of logic.

I nearly all cases you can keep the Trinity away from the sins of man by citing Free Will.

But, we have one interesting EXCEPTION. Conclaves. If the Holy Spirit actively participates in the selection of a new pope, then we have a specific incident when the Holy Spirit has EXPLICITLY played ‘his hand’ — so to speak.

Then, we look at the current pope, Benedict XVI (#266), and the controversy, related to clerical abuse cover-up, he is currently embroiled in.

Here comes the rub.

IF the Holy Spirit plays a role in the election of popes, then the Holy Spirit ‘OKed’ the election of Benedict XVI.

What Benedict XVI’s has been accused of happened BEFORE he was elected pope.

So, IF the Holy Spirit had a hand in the election of Benedict XVI … the Holy Spirit must have been aware of what Cardinal Ratzinger had been up to?

Draw your own conclusions from here.

If you have problems with that, PLEASE let me know. I will gladly take YOU down the various paths. One EASY one is to say ‘Of, the Holy Spirit was not aware.’ That is valid. But, others could cringe that that impacts omnipotence. See the problem?

Please COMMENT. Please help me put this right.

Anura Guruge

May 212010

That John Magee, the Bishop of Cloyne, Ireland, resigned on March 24, 2010, two years ahead of the 75 year retirement threshold set forth in the Code of Canon Law, as a casualty of the on going Irish clerical abuse scandal is sad and unfortunate – but appropriate. One, however, is struck that Magee, yet again, appears to be a sacrificial lamb!

His resignation, though germane, is unlikely to quell the clamor in Ireland. Magee, despite what some would say was an enviable career, was still but a bishop. The Irish, however, appear to want some ‘red’ – though, thankfully, not in any liquid form.

Ironically, this is not the first time John Magee appears to be taking one ‘for the team!’ In reality this is John Magee’s second high-profile brush with cover-up, conspiracy theories and controversy.

John Magee has been portrayed today, in the media, as a personal secretary to John Paul II (#265), and thus providing a rather vicarious link between the scandal and the iconic pope. While this is indeed true, it is not, however, John Magee’s real claim to fame.

John Magee was personal secretary to three (3) popes: Paul VI (#263), John Paul I (#264) and John Paul II. That he was a native English speaker was a part of his appeal.

Per the Vatican accounts it was John Magee who discovered the body of John Paul I. Many have doubted that. But, he went along. He never said otherwise.

Anura Guruge

Consequently, John Magee has been discussed and dissected in many accounts to do with John Paul I’s tragic passing away. He is discussed in detail in John Cornwell’s ‘A Thief In The Night’ (Life and Death in the Vatican). He comes across as a loyal but erratic character. He did all that was expected of him by the Vatican. For that, he was eventually made a Bishop – but he never came close to the ‘red.’ Now he has resigned. It is all very sad.

Last Cardinal To Resign

 Posted by at 1:06 pm
May 212010

The last cardinal to resign was French Cardinal Louis Billot, S. J., in late 1927 [he having tendered his resignation in September and it being made public in December.

No, this is not a typo, an oversight or a lack of diligence on my part. << smile >>

Yes, it is 1927. So, NO we haven’t had a cardinal resign in over 80 years.

The eleven Canons in the 1983 Code, i.e., Canons 349 t0 359, does not address the resignation of a cardinalate (only dealing with the need, if they are curial, to tender their curial office resignation to the pope after their 75th birthday).

But, Cardinal Billot’s resignation, when he disagreed with Pius XI’s (#260) condemnation of French political movement [viz. Action Française], demonstrates that it is, of course, possible for a cardinal to resign — provided the pope is willing to accept the resignation. That appears to be the rub. [Though we, the public, are unlikely to ever hear, it is possible that the lack of resignations during the ‘current’ clergy scandal is because the popes did not want to ‘hurt the Church further’ by having the resignation of cardinals.]

So, contrary to what many believe Austrian Hans Hermann Groër, the disgraced and discredited ex-Archbishop of Vienna, died a cardinal — though he was forced to relinquish all posts in Austria.

The infamous Bernard Francis Law, though he appears to have taken liberties with the LAW of the land, also continues as a cardinal though he, like Groër, had to relinquish his pastoral ties. He is in exile, but as a cardinal.

Hope this helps. I know that may think that Groër resigned. He didn’t. Or at least if he did, the John Paul II (#265) didn’t accept the resignation.

Grace, and may peace be with you.

Anura Guruge

May 042010
Cardinal Luigi Poggi who died May 4, 2010 at 92

Cardinal Luigi Poggi who died May 4, 2010 at 92

On May 4, 2010, Italian Cardinall Luigi Poggi who turned 92 last November died in Rome.

He was the third cardinal to die within 18 days, the other two having been German Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer, 98, on April 30 and 90 year old Czech Cardinal Tomáš Špidlík on April 16.

The College of Cardinals is now at 179 though the number of electors continues at 108 — the size of the electorate not having changed since March 31, 2010 when Spanish Cardinal Julián Herranz Casado turned 80.

For all the details of the composition of the College of Cardinals as of May 4, 2010 please visit < here >.

Anura Guruge

May 022010

q.v. my June 26, 2010 post
<< Next Consistory, New Cardinals, Vacancies — The Facts and Exact Numbers >>

by Anura Guruge

As of April 19, 2010, the fifth anniversary of this pontificate, it has been 2 years and 4 months [877 days to be precise] since there has been a cardinal creating consistory – Benedict XVI’s (#266) last having been on November 24, 2007 – during which he created 23 cardinals, five of them non-voting [i.e., they were already over 80].

After that consistory in 2007 there were 201 cardinals, 120 of them eligible to vote – Paul VI (#263), in 1973, having specified a 120 elector maximum (though John Paul II (#265) unhesitatingly, and quite famously, exceeded this twice with aplomb).
[q.v., pages 123-124 of ‘The Next Pope’ book on Google Books.]

Benedict XVI, a doctrinal purist, let it be known at his first consistory, on March 24, 2006, that he intends, always, to adhere to Paul VI’s 120 elector limit and he has been true to this pledge.

As of May 4, 2010 we are down to 179 cardinals of which 108 are electors. Please click here for the May 4, 2010 demographics of the College < click >.

Twelve more cardinals will turn 80 within the next 12 months.

This is the least number of electors we have had on a prolonged basis since Paul VI enacted the 80 year cut-off rule – effective as of January 1, 1971.

But there are no rules or even norms saying that you need upwards of 110 electors for a ‘modern’ conclave — just because we had 115, 111 and 111 electors at the last three conclaves.

Between 1586 and 1958 the total size of the College was capped at 70!

Factors Impacting The Next Cardinal Creating Consistory
The chances are that the pope may want to hold a cardinal creating consistory within the next 18 months. But, he has to also deal with the ongoing sex abuse scandal. Creating cardinals in this current climate is unlikely to be well received. He will also have to be ultra careful as to who he creates to avoid any accusations that he is rewarding prelates whose hands may not be 100% clean vis-à-vis the scandal. So this is a big issue. The Vatican, not too good at these things, may actually have to institute a ‘rigorous’ vetting process for potential cardinals. Anyone that follows US politics knows that even the best vetting that money can buy does not, alack, always unearth all skeletons – but when it comes to Catholic prelates tax avoidance or illegal nannies would be the least of the issues the pope will be concerned about, though he may wonder why there was a need for a nanny.

Then, there is also the matter of costs. Creating cardinals (even prior to the need for costly vetting) costs money for the Vatican, as does holding a consistory. Cardinals are expensive commodities (and I am sure that there are those at the Vatican who pine for good old days, as in the middle ages, when folks paid the pope, handsomely, for a cardinalate and therefore creating cardinals was a means for raising funds for the Holy See).

So these are all factors that influence when we might see the next cardinal creating consistory.

It should also be noted that this pope, in contrast to John XXIII (#262) or Paul VI (#263), does not have to worry about needing to alter the political landscape of the electorate. John Paul II (#265) and this pope, who was John Paul’s doctrinal enforcer, made sure that the current College is predominantly conservative. So, this pope doesn’t have to fret that he has to make sure that there are enough of his ilk to make sure that the next pope will also be a John Paul II conservative, as is he. That is kind of depressing. One can only hope that the electors suitably chastised by the fallout of the clergy scandal may decide to elect one of the more ‘liberal’ non-Europeans among their ranks to show that they too want CHANGE. But … the electors … their average age being 72 … have confirmed of late that ‘sensitivity’ isn’t exactly their strong suit. Shades of ‘let them eat cake!’

Pascalina Lehnert

Mother Pascalina Lehnert

Looking At The Trends
A metric I created to compare cardinal-creating trends was that of ‘number of cardinals per months as pope.John Paul II (#265) was pope for 317 months during which he created a record 231 cardinals. If we divide the 231 by the 317 months we get 0.73 cardinals per each month of his papacy. By that same metric Benedict XVI, as of his 5 year mark [i.e., 60 months] is at 0.63. John XXIII (#262), who was in a hurry and definitely had an ‘agenda’ was at 0.95 – in, alas, what was a brief, but glorious, pontificate. Pius XII (#261), however, comes in at 0.24. And that sets a very low bar for this pope.

Pius XII was an enigma. Though he was pope for nearly 20 years [19 years, 7 months] he only held 2 cardinal creating consistories during which he created a total of 56 cardinals. Yes, WW II was an issue. But, that alone does not explain the reluctance of this pope to create cardinals. I, as ever, have a theory. Pius XII was not a people person. He, despite (or probably because of) his 41 year, rather incongruous relationship with his German ‘housekeeper’ Sister (later Mother) Pascalina Lehnert, was a solitary, lonely, haunted soul. I think he had trouble of seeing many as worthy – particularly worthy of being made a cardinal. So thanks to Pius XII’s foibles other popes, such as the current pope, get a break when it comes to creating cardinals.

The following table provides an overview of the cardinal creating trends as of Pius X (#258).

This next table looks at the durations between cardinal creating cardinals.

Yet again we see that the current pope is not violating any norms – even though we have to acknowledge that there really are no ‘norms’ when it comes to creating cardinals.

This the last table in this post shows when all 55 of the cardinal creating consistories were held as of 1900.

The first thing you should notice is that Monday’s used to be the traditional day for creating cardinals! John Paul II and his protégé put paid to that.

It is also interesting that there were ‘favored’ dates … mid-December, prior to Christmas, being one of them. John Paul II held consecutive cardinal creating consistories on the same day; February 21 and June 28.

So Monday’s by far was the most popular of the days for creating cardinals though this no longer seems to be a factor. December was the most popular of the months.

May 012010

<< College of Cardinals down to 179 as of May 4, 2010 following the death of 92 year old Italian Cardinal Luigi Poggo on that day. >>

Cardinal Paul Augustin Meyer of Germany, a curialist during much of his career, died on April 30, 2010, at the age of 98, twenty three days short of turning 99.

The prior loss of a cardinal took place just 14 days prior with the passing away of Cardinal Tomáš Špidlík, of Czechoslovakia. Cardinal Meyer was a Benedictine (the only one in the College ) while Cardinal Špidlík was a Jesuit.

The College of Cardinals, as of April 30, 2010, is now at 180 cardinals;
108 electors and 72 non-electors.

<< see sidebar ‘bill board’ on right >>

Of the electors 55 are from Europe (19 from Italy) and 33 from ‘Americas’ (12 from the USA). Cardinal Mayer cased to be an elector way back in 1996. He never got to participate in a conclave though he was a cardinal for 25 years.

We have not had a cardinal-creating consistory since November 24, 2007. To be fair, that is not that unusual or incongruous.

It is unlikely that the pope will deem it proper to hold a cardinal-creating consistory within the next few months. But, as ever, I could be wrong. I would think that the pope needs to, by hook or by crook, get through this latest explosive chapter in the ever distressing clergy abuse tragedy. To create any cardinals right now may appear to be somewhat insensitive, but being ‘sensitive’ does seem an alien concept of late to the Vatican.

But, my hope is that the pope will wait until the dust, the allegations and lawsuits ‘settle’  down, somewhat. Right now, I am having trouble keeping track of the number of bishops that have resigned over the last 72 hours. Was it two, or was it three. I hope the Vatican is better an keeping track of these resignations than they are at updating the statistics of the College. Per the Vatican site, as of April 23, we have one more cardinal and three more electors than is the case.

Click <here> for my latest demographics of the College of Cardinals, with details on orders, professions, age, nationality etc.

Thank you.

Anura Guruge

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