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!’
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.