Jun 262010

q.v. my May 02, 2010 post
<< The Next Cardinal Creating Consistory by Pope Benedict XVI (#266) >>

Benedict XVI’s (#266) last cardinal creating consistory was on Saturday, November 24, 2007 when he created 23 cardinals, 5 of them non-electors [i.e., already over 80].

That, as of today [i.e., June 26, 2010], was 2 years, 7 months and 2 days [i.e., 945 days] ago. Per my metric of ‘number of cardinals per months as pope,‘ Benedict XVI is now at .61 [i.e., 38 cardinals during 62 months as pope]. If you would please look at the charts in on my May 02, 2010 post on consistory trends <above>, you will see that this pope is well within the norms — well ahead of the rates of Pius X (#258), Benedict XV (#259), Pius XI (#260) and the extremely reticent Pius XII (#261).

In the last two weeks, I have seen a lot of ‘chatter,’ e-mails and posts, with folks speculating as to when the next cardinal creating consistory might be. There are basically two camps: the Nov/Dec 2010 camp and the Spring of 2011 camp. I, for one, am happy that the 2011 ‘campers’ are costs and economics as to why the pope may decide to delay the consistory. I had pointed this out, multiple times, this year. The Vatican is facing the same problem as BP. They are not sure how much the ongoing ‘spill,’ in each of their cases, is going to end up costing. The police raids in Belgium, on June 24, indubitably, adding to the popes concerns.

As of June 26, 2010, we have 179 cardinals of which 108 are electors.

Of the 179 cardinals: 6 = Cardinals Bishops, 3 = Oriental Rites Patriarchs, 143 = Cardinal Priests & 27 = Cardinal Deacons.

Of the 108 electors: 4 = Cardinals Bishops, 1 = Oriental Rites Patriarch, 87 = Cardinal Priests & 16 = Cardinal Deacons.


There are no statutes, at present, dictating the overall size of the College of Cardinals. As of December 3, 1586 and December 15, 1958 the size of the College was limited to 70 per Sixtus V (#228). John XXIII (#262) opted to override this 70 limitation, citing the increase in the size of the Church since the time of Sixtus V, but did not specify an upper limit. Following Benedict XVI’s November 24, 2007 consistory there were 201 cardinals — 120 of whom were electors. That 201 is the largest College to-date. Right now, based on the currently available titles, the College could get up to 218. [More below]

The number of permissible electors (at any given time) was capped at 120, in 1973, by a Paul VI (#263) edict. John Paul II (#265) exceeded this 120 limit, at least once — somehow confident (as it indeed proved to be the case) that this infraction would not become an issue since there would not be a conclave until the number, again, dropped below 120. [q.v. pages 123-124 of my ‘The Next Pope‘ book.] Benedict XVI, at his first consistory, in March 2006, let it be known that he did not intend, ever, to exceed the 120 limit.

These two charts, extracted from ‘The Next Pope’ book graphically illustrates how the size of the College has grown, exponentially, since the reign of John XXIII.

Exponential growth in the size of the College of Cardinals since 1958 from page 132 of Anura Guruge's 'The Next Pope Book'

Exponential growth in the size of the College of Cardinals since 1958 from page 132 of Anura Guruge's 'The Next Pope Book'

Another chart from Anura Guruge's 'The Next Pope' book showing how the size of the College of Cardinals has tripled since 1903

Another chart from Anura Guruge's 'The Next Pope' book showing how the size of the College of Cardinals has tripled since 1903


So right now we have 12 vacant elector slots.

On July 7, 2010, assuming nothing else transpires, we will have 13 vacant elector slots since U.S. Cardinal McCarrick will turn 80.

On November 14, 2010, assuming nothing else transpires, we will have 19 vacant elector slots.

On April 11, 2011, assuming nothing else transpires, we will have 25 vacant elector slots.

So herein lies one of the problems; one, obviously, overlooked but the normally meticulous, Paul VI. When a cardinal turns 80 he ceases to be an elector BUT he does not relinquish his ‘title.’ Titles only get freed up when a cardinal dies or in the very unlikely event that he resigns. [The last cardinal to resign was in 1927!] Thus, you could end up with a  shortage of appropriate ‘titles,’ as might be the case right now — though a pope can create new titles as long as he can locate suitable ‘properties’ in and around Rome. [On March 12, 1960, alone, John XXIII established 7 church titles for cardinal priests and 1 deaconry for a cardinal deacon.]

<< The College in essence has the equivalent of the so called ‘Baby Boomer Bulge.’ A growing number of non-elector cardinals swelling the ranks of the College. Shortly after Paul VI instituted his 120 rule there were only 6 non-elector cardinals. Today we have 71. That is larger than what the total College was for much of history. It is a significant cost to the Vatican. Think about it. >>

The average age of the 179 cardinals in the College, as of now, is 78. The average age of the 71 non-elector cardinals is 85. Hence, it would be reasonable to expect some level of attrition — though this is unlikely to be that many.

Pro hac vice is Latin for ‘on (or for) this occasion.’ Basically ‘for this turn’ (only). It denotes a temporary assignment that will cease to be once that specific ‘event’ or ‘occasion’ comes to an end.

When a cardinal deacon is elevated, per the jus optionis preferment schemes, the pope may decide, in some instances, to make his existing deaconry a pro hac vice church title for the duration of that cardinals life. This eliminates to need to assign a church title to the newly promoted cardinal.

Background: Cardinal priests are assigned a title to a Roman church. Cardinal deacons to a Roman deaconry. There are separate lists of each. Sixtus V (#228), who set the maximum size of the College at 70 in 1586, also specified, this time in 1587, that the church titles and deaconries were to be kept strictly separated. Per Sixtus a cardinal priest could not be assigned to a deaconry, or a cardinal deacon to a church title. The pro hac vice elevations, kind of contradict this, but with the explicit understanding that it is temporary, expedient move — and used when existing cardinal is being elevated.

The determination of ‘order’: 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.

Right now we have 16 cardinal priests who have been elevated with pro hac vice deaconries.

In commendam, a custom dating back at least a 1,000 years, is the concept of giving an ecclesiastical benefice, in trust, to the custody of a patron — basically to ensure that the patron will receive the remunerations associated with that benefice. A pope can assign a title (or deaconry) to a cardinal in commendam — if the cardinal resides in Rome. Right now we have one instance of this, with the Dean of the College, the 82-year old Italian Cardinal Bishop Angelo Sodano. On June 28, 1991 he was created a Cardinal Priest with the title of Santa Maria Nuova by John Paul II (#265). The next day he was appointed Secretary of State.

On January 10, 1994 he was made a Cardinal Bishop of Albano (per what is customary for a Secretary of State) BUT was allowed, by John Paul II, to keep the title for S. Maria Nuova in commendam. That does not happen often. It meant that he would enjoy additional revenue — probably because he was #2 at the Vatican.

On April 19, 2005 the College lost its Dean. [He became pope]. Five days later the remaining Cardinal Bishops elected Sodano as the Dean. As Dean he got Ostia in addition to Albano. That is the due of a Dean — the proceeds from two Sees. But, Sodano continued to keep S. Maria Nuova in commendam — and still does though he no longer holds any curial office. So he enjoys the proceeds from three Sees.

Currently there are total of 141 Roman churches that can be assigned to Cardinal Priests and 63 Roman deaconries that can be assigned to Cardinal Priests.

Right now we have 143 Cardinal Priests & 27 Cardinal Deacons.

But 16 of the Cardinal Priests have pro hac vice titles. That means only 127 titles are in use. So there should be 14 free, but Sodano holds S. Maria Nuova in commendam to top of Albano and Ostia. So we only have 13.

When it comes to the deaconries, we have 27 Cardinal Deacons & 16 prior Cardinal Deacons using pro hac vice titles. So 43 of the current deaconries are in use. That still leaves 20 free.

So right now we have 33 vacancies, 13 for Cardinal Priests and 20 for Cardinal Deacons.

Oriental rites patriarchs are  created Cardinal Bishops — without the assignment of a ‘Roman’ title. So, if need be, more patriarchs (there can be a total of eight) could be created Cardinal Bishops.


The College, as described in detail in this post, has always had various jus optionis (right of option), which enabled senior cardinals to seek preferment within the College.

The current jus optionis scheme is embodied in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, 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.

There are currently 6 Cardinal Deacons who will reach their 10 year anniversary on February 21, 2001. Given the current shortage of titles, those that seek elevation, are likely to be elevated pro hac vice.

Paul VI’s (#263) 1970 decision to preclude cardinals over the age of 80 from voting was political gambit to weed out the most conservative of the cardinals from having a say in electing Paul’s successor.

Today, especially with cardinals-in-conclave being housed in the Domus Sanctae Marthae ‘guest house,’ it is difficult to claim that older cardinals cannot endure the rigors of a conclave, particularly when the current pope is 83 and John Paul II reigned till he was nearly 85.

Benedict XVI could raise the age limit. Paul VI’s 120 limit for electors was also purely arbitrary. Benedict XVI could change that too — which he will have to do if the age limit was to be increased.

In essence the pope could increase the size of the electorate without having to create any new cardinals.

Thank you.

  9 Responses to “Next Consistory, New Cardinals, Vacancies — The Facts and Exact Numbers”

  1. Do you know when the last time was that a cardinal deacon was elected Pope? Is there a list someplace where there is shown the Popes who were Cardinal Deacons when they were elected?

    Dewie Gaul

  2. Dewie, MY FRIEND,
    We both know who the LAST Cardinal Deacon to be elected pope. It is in my book, page 28 … where I am talking about papabile Cardinal Vallini, who is a deacon. The last cardinal deacon to be pope was the ‘colorful’ Medici Leo X (#218) in 1513.
    Dewie, I know you are looking for a list. I probably have 80% of this already … since I have a spreadsheet of the elections up to 1500.
    Please give me till the end of this week, LATEST. I have a few things to do … including a POSSIBLE revision to the BOOK … in the main to FIX the 8 or 9 errors YOU pointed out.
    Dewie, I will keep you posted … here and via e-mail. OK?
    All the best. Hope you are keeping well. Another crazy busy week for me … Summer with young kids … who also have various appointments for checkups etc.
    Your friend,

  3. The Republic of Malta, a member of the European Comunity, is,
    practically, the ONLY country in the World that is 100% Roman Catholic,
    and has been since AD 60 when Saint Paul was shipwrecked here, as
    documented in the Acts of The Apostles, and converted the inhabitants !!

    Yet, Malta has NEVER HAD a Cardinal, consequently is NEVER EVER
    represented during Conclaves !!

    On behalf of thousands of Maltese Catholics, may I ask WHY our Island
    does not have a “Prince” of the Church !!!???

    can anyone explain WHY ????????? PLAESE !!

    Thank you

    Enzo Gusman

  4. Please see reply to your other comment. THANK YOU.

  5. I was so happy to hear that Malta is a 100% Catholic country. Praise the Lord and May God Bless All the people of Malta. May be in time to come we will see a Cardinal from Malta. Let us pray.

  6. Shirani,
    First of all Welcome. I see you have a UK e-mail. Are you from Sri Lanka? I have a dear cousin, who I talk to by phone often, with your name.

    Shirani, when I got your e-mail I did a search on this blog for all references to ‘Malta’ because I knew we had talked about Malta’s Catholicity. I found the 4 relevant comments, all between Sept. 21-22, 2010. Two were from a Enzo Gusman, FROM MALTA, and those are the two comments that really count. You must have seen them. They are on the same page as yours. Mr. Guzman, actually said, ‘is, practically, the ONLY country in the World that is 100% Roman Catholic, …’ That practically was KEY.
    Mr. Gusman is RIGHT. Malta is NOT 100% Catholic — it is 98% Catholic. Other than the Vatican, even then I have my DOUBTS, no country is 100% ‘anything’ if you really dig in. I see that we did have Archbishop Cremona as a distant possibility. But, I notice he does not appear in Louis Epstein’s updated cardinalabili list of Oct. 26. I will ask. So that is where we stand.
    Thank you. All the best.

  7. I am not aware of there being a cardinalitial track record for Valletta,I don’t forecast one.My list mainly highlights those in posts that carry with them a demonstrated substantial chance of elevation…any one-time-favor creations might well get missed unless the individual’s reputation has come to my attention (and perhaps even then).

  8. Louis,
    But, this archbishop did spend significant time with the pope when the pope visited Malta … and now we have a single Cooray doesn’t make a cardinalate.
    You might want to put him on your radar as a gray dot … a small one.
    Thanks. Cheers

  9. Hosting papal visits doesn’t guarantee red hats!

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