On Sept. 5, 2010, I gave you a heads up as soon as I became aware that credible sources were talking about a November 2010 consistory to create a crop of new cardinals.
Since then the chatter (part of it no doubt in response to the interest generated by my post) has grown and many are getting convinced that we will see a cardinal creating consistory on November 20, 2010 or thereabouts.
Having a cardinal creating consistory in November or December of 2010 is mindless … unless the pope is willing to go back on his word or change the ‘numbers’ — given that the numbers are totally arbitrary.
There is ONLY one, and ONLY ONE, LOGICAL rationale for a November or December 2010 consistory to create new cardinals.
That rationale being the attempt to avert the potential psychological impact within the Church of seeing the number of cardinal electors drop below 100. [cf. stock market index support levels.] As rationales go, this is pretty flaccid. As I have pointed out, the conclave that elected John XXIII (#262) only had 51 electors. That which elected Paul VI (#263) 80. There were only 62 electors present at the 1939 conclave that elected Pius XII (#261). Moreover, let us not kid ourselves. Benedict XVI (#266) adding new electors is hardly going to change the overall makeup of the electorate! It isn’t as if he has to bolster the ranks of the traditionalist so that they stand a chance against the moderate faction.
Here is the problem with a November or even December 2010 cardinal creating consistory.
Six (6) cardinals will turn 80 between January 26, 2011 and April 11, 2011.
So five months after a 2010 consistory we will be down at least 6 cardinal electors — and that is ASSUMING no other attrition. And here is the kicker. After April 11th, we go a FULL seven (7) months before we have one of today’s cardinal electors turn 80. So, a pre-Easter consistory, given that I think Easter is on April 24, makes much more sense.
- Pull a John Paul II (#265) and create MORE THAN 120 electors — though Benedict XVI, at his first consistory in 2006, volunteered, on his own volition (with no outside pressure whatsoever), that he intends to always stay within the 120 elector limit. Remember that in 2003, John Paul II had 135 cardinal electors! Yes, 15 over the limit. In 2001, he tried it out by having 128. So, Benedict, if he has the chutzpah, should create enough cardinals so that we have at least 126. Then let time and age trim the numbers, which was John Paul’s tactic (even though he wasn’t, by 2003, in the best of health). [This approach does, of course, assume that the pope continues in good health.]
- The other option, in my opinion long overdue, is to raise the 120 limit, arbitrarily created by Paul VI 37 years ago. There is no biblical, doctrinal or even historic basis for 120 (though there was for the prior 70 limit). So why be constrained by an arbitrary ceiling. Bump it up to 130 or even 135, if there is really a feeling that well over 100 cardinals have to participate in a conclave to give it legitimacy.
The above two options are the LEAST that the pope should contemplate. Ideally, we needs to revisit the whole notion of the College. Remember that between 1586 and 1958, i.e., for 372 years, the size of the College, in total, was capped at 70 — the 70 indeed having some biblical basis. Adding new cardinals, as the number of non-elector cardinals grow is CRAZY. By November 2010 we could have 78 non-electors. Just 52 years ago we couldn’t even have so many cardinals in total. This pope, but most likely the next, has to tackle this problem. The current parameters are those created by John XXIII and Paul VI, to some extent, compliment Vatican II. It is time for some reform. Some restraint. Some reality. I will talk about this within the month. But, I would like YOU to also think about it.
Thank you. Cheers.