The appointment of Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a Sulpician, my #3 papabili from way back in 2009, as the Prefect of the influential Congregation for Bishops, on June 30, 2010, got me curious as to how Canadian cardinals had done in terms of senior curial posts. So I did some quick research.
It is indeed true that Marc Ouellet is the first Canadian, and the first Sulpician, to head up the Congregation for Bishops.
But, other than for this very specific achievement there is nothing extraordinary about this appointment.
Cardinal Ouellet is not the first cardinal from the Americas to head up the Congregation for Bishops. He is not the first Canadian to head up a curial dicastery. He is not the first Sulpician to head up a curial dicastery. He is not even the first Canadian Sulpician to head up a curial dicastery! Please read THIS POST for more details on this.
But there are other things that I found during my research. On the whole Canada, most likely due to the ‘dollar’ prosperity of its congregation within the same bounds as the even more prosperous brethren to the South, has done rather well when it has come to Cardinals — given that it only has ~14 million Catholics, making it 17th in rank, worldwide, in terms of its Catholicity. I compiled this table for comparison < please click on it to enlarge >:
NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION PER THE CHURCH
The Philippines has 5 times MORE Catholics than Canada. But they have had 6 cardinals in total to Canada’s 15.
Argentina has 2.5 times MORE Catholics than Canada. But they have had 11 cardinals in total to Canada’s 15.
Mexico has 7 times MORE Catholics than Canada. But they have had 10 cardinals in total to Canada’s 15.
Brazil has over 9 times MORE Catholics than Canada, but they only have 4 cardinal electors to Canada’s 2.
The Philippines despite having 5 times MORE Catholics than Canada currently has the same number of cardinal electors, i.e., 2.
It is also interesting to see when Canada got its first cardinal compared to the other, more Catholic, countries — the year being 1886, eleven years after that of the first US cardinal and the same year the the US got its second. Mexico got it first cardinal in 1958, the Philippines 1960! [Australia, whose Catholic population is unlikely to have ever exceeded 6 million, had its first cardinal in 1885 — albeit, with the Irish-born Patrick Moran. So, Australia, another British Commonwealth country, like Canada, is in the very elite cadre of countries, outside of Europe and the Middle East, to have had a cardinal prior to the 20th century.
That cardinals are a means for generating revenues for the Holy See has been a well entrenched and exploited notion since the middle ages. Initially it was the notion of rewarding the Holy See for a cardinalate, hence the existence of very, very young cardinals from wealthy families, e.g., Cardinal-Prince Fernando de Austria (10 years old in 1619), Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici [Leo X (#218)] (13 in 1489) and Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici (14 in 1563). In time, this progressed into the financial ‘rain making’ that could be done by a cardinal during his tenure, with US cardinals, in particular, Chicago’s Cardinal John Patrick Cody (1907-1982) being the epitome, proving to be extremely adapt ‘rain makers’ thanks to their wealthy congregations. Prior to the 1922 conclave, the Camerlengo, Cardinal Gasparri, sent a telegram to the nuncio in the US to make sure that the US cardinals will bring along all available surplus funds. Canada, obviously, also benefits from the potential ‘rain making’ talents of the cardinals.
ELECTORAL REFORM IS OVERDUE
At some point this totally unrepresentative allocation of cardinals will have to come to an end.
The US, buffeted by both an economic downturn and the fallout of the clergy sex abuse scandal, is not generating anything like the revenues it did in the past for the benefit of the Vatican. Church attendance is also falling. In contrast, Catholicism continues to flourish in the Latin American countries. At some point the Catholics in these countries are going to wise up.
Given that the current system (sans the the conclaves) came to be close to a 1,000 years ago, it is indeed safe to say that the electoral process new popes is antiquated, Electoral reform could rejuvenate the Church. But, it is hard to see the current pope getting around to tackle it. There are two major impediments. He has his hands full dealing with the clergy abuse scandal, and even if he had any bandwidth leftover after that, it is unclear whether he, an avowed traditionalist, would want to tinker with tradition.
More on possible electoral reform in a later post.