The non-optimum timing of a November 2010 cardinal creating consistory was discussed on Sept. 10 — with two possible options for overcoming the ‘we are down below 120 electors again‘ syndrome.
The problem being that 6 cardinals turn 80 between January 26, 2011 and April 11, 2011; one each in January, February and March, and three in February.
Glenn W., a frequent Canadian contributor to my blogs, suggested a third option, yesterday, for getting around the ‘elector depletion’ problem — that being to create a bunch of cardinal electors in pectore (‘in the breast‘) and then unveil them, in sequence, each time we lose a cardinal elector. Glenn, as I have discovered, is a deep thinker and very astute. So, obviously, this approach would work. THANK YOU, Glenn.
There are, however, alack, three drawbacks to this approach (even if we put aside the issue that in pectore is a ‘special case’ option that should not be overused):
- You still need a forum of some sort to unveil the name of the new cardinal and this has typically been an ordinary consistory [hence, my idea of virtual consistories].
- Naming under 80 prelates even in pectore could and would be construed as the pope creating more than 120 electors at one time — and thus flip-flopping on his claim from his very first consistory, in 2006, that he would not exceed the 120 limit. [Please read my response to Glenn’s comment above. John Paul II (#265) in 1979 created an in pectore ‘cardinal.’ That was considered to have been the first time , of the total of three times, that he exceeded the 120 limit. So, this is not an optimum option for the pope.
- Though this is independent of in pectore per se, topping up the electors whenever the number drops below 120 will BLOAT the size of the College even further. I have had three e-mails in the last couple of days, all from Italy, saying that the College is already TOO LARGE. I agree. Though people love to claim that Paul VI (#263) was a ‘details-pope,’ who pondered hard and long before he didanything, in my opinion, he does not appear to have foreseen what would happen as cardinals turned 80, but would continue to live long past that. I doubt whether he saw a scenario where 40% of the cardinals were in essence out-of-commission, ineligible to vote.
My suggestion is but a variation of Glenn’s in pectore options.
Don’t create any cardinals in pectore. Instead, let it be known that future cardinals may be created, in small numbers, outside of even an ordinary consistory.
This not really a big deal.
Popes use to create single cardinals, typically their ‘cardinal nephew,’ soon after becoming pope. On July 15, 1929, Pius XI (#260) created a single cardinal. There were 8 instances when he created just 2 cardinals. << check here — towards the bottom >>
There will be those that claim that this overturns conventional tradition and pageantry. But, the papacy evolves. It may be slow, but changes do occur.
This pope did NOT greet all of the cardinals individually at his inauguration (the cardinal electors having already paid their homage to the new pope soon after he is elected. Page 203 of ‘The Next Pope‘.)
The popes no longer wear a tiara or use the sedia gestatoria. I also do not think they use the Royal ‘we.’ So change does occur.
So my suggestion is virtual consistories when the pope creates one or two cardinals without the expense of an elaborate ordinary consistory.
Maybe, if the Vatican could sort out the technology, he could do this via a virtual consistory … with many cardinals, around the world, participating via Web cams. But, that would be a stretch.