Sep 122010

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.

John McCloskey, the first American cardinal, being created in 1875.

John McCloskey, the first American cardinal, being created in 1875.

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):

  1. 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].
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Anura Guruge

  10 Responses to “Virtual (or ‘micro,’ ideally ‘nano’) Consistory for Creating One or Two Cardinals”

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Anura… but you might want to re-think them, because I’m about to disagree with you *L*. I actually like the idea of a formal consistory every few years – it invests the office of Cardinal a certain dignity and stature. Simply replacing one retiring elector with another whenever necessary would smack of routine office shuffling. Besides, a Cardinal should come into office as his own man with his own views – not as a replacement for a retiring elector with all extra burdens that that entails. Look at the US Supreme Court – every new Justice is held up in comparison to his or her predecessor. A consitory isn’t about replacement, it’s about renewal – a whole new group of Cardinals is coming to the forefront to give a breath of new life to the Church.

    Besides, where would the Catholic Church be without a little ceremony from time to time?

    I do agree with you, naming a bunch of in pectore Cardinals that the Pope could pull out his pocket when required – as I put forward – would probably be an abuse of the practice… and plus, it does tie into that replacement vs. renewals issue. Besides, what is so bad about having less than 120 electors? It’s not like the dome of St. Peter’s is going to fall in because we went from 105 electors to 120 and then down to 114 in the span of a year. Just because 120 is the limit doesn’t mean we always have to be at the limit, does it?

    I remember reading a passage from L’Morte d’Arthur, I think it was… when the young Arthur first became King and went into Camelot and saw the Round Table for the first time and it was surrounded by empty chairs – one for each of his future knights. His first inclination was to go out and fill the chairs immediately, but Merlin cautioned him not to do so… for once all the chairs were full, then he would be at the height of his power and would have nowhere to go but down. So why should Pope Benedict be in any greater hurry to fill his empty chairs? Isn’t it wise to always have an empty chair or two at hand?

  2. Disagreement is good. I have no problems with that. I, furthermore, agree with what you say too! But, if you haven’t worked it out, my role is to be provocative. Otherwise there is no new thought, new debate. Status quo reigns and rains. Coming from Ceylon with a Buddhist upbringing, and then an Aanglophile, through and through, I love a bit of pageantry … and in Ceylon we do it with lit up elephants. I don’t think the roads in Rome are wide enough for a procession of 100 elephants and dancers — with or without the pope.
    Glenn, but also coming from a 3rd world country, and having bummed about the world a bit, and having seen abject poverty first hand (and no, no I am not talking about the homeless in Las Vegas) … I do OFTEN worry about the Catholic Church’s reliance on expensive, purely DECORATIVE panoply when we still have kids dying of hunger!
    But, as you rightly point out, those in developed countries can only appreciate the Church if it comes across like a set from a low-budget Bollywood movie.
    Thanks and Cheers

  3. I have a compromise!!! (Always the bridge-builder!) . . . I think there should be a certain day designated each year when the Cardinals are made just like the Solemnity of Peter and Paul is when the Archbishops get their Pallium. Just trying to think of a good time of the year. Maybe the Nov. Christ the King, since its been traditional. Or maybe during Pentecost because of the RED. (the weather is also nicer in May than in Nov.) In this way, there would seldom be less than 100 electors. And, if one doesn’t make the cut, there is always next year!
    However, the more I have been thinking about it, I think there needs to be either more Cardinals or there needs to be a Bishop’s Senate, where there could be representation from every country, and then a House of Reps, where Bishop Electors and/or Cardinals are chosen in relationship to percentage of Catholics (or something else like Dioceses/Parishes/Priests) in a particular country or region. Although they are attempting to do something like it, it would be nice to see it mandated.

  4. I believe there is no problem with having a three or three-and-half year gap between
    two consistories. John Paul II kept this gap between (aproximately) 30 and 45 months.
    Benedict’s first consistory happened within the first year of his pontificate
    (so did John Paul II too). The next followed after some 20 months. There are some 34 months
    since the last consistory in 2007. I do not see any problem in waiting until Ss. Peter and Paul
    (June 29, 2011), although the number of electors would be “only” 95 by then. This would make
    some 43-or-44-month gap between the consistories. Indeed, money can be spent better than on organizing consistories every second year (instead of, say, every third or every 45 months).

  5. Considering Anura’s worrying about “the Catholic Church’s reliance on expensive, purely decorative panoply when we still have kids dying of hunger”, and Glenn’s rhetorical question “where would the Catholic Church be without a little ceremony from time to time?”, let me express some of my thoughts. First, i think that Glenn’s remark was both affirmative and ironical. Indeed, when we go to church each Sunday we CELEBRATE mass. We praise God, we listen to His Word, we take Communion. Through the week I keep thinking of the last Sunday readings, I often remember the sermon as well. On Friday or Saturday I take the Missal (whenever I have enough time) and enjoy the next Sunday readings. Besides, I regularly go to the 8:00 mass in a Jesuit church, which is completey spoken (i.e. no singing at all). However, one of the best choirs in Croatia sings at 11:00. Bach, Haendel, Rahmaninov, some of our-Croatian native composers. Songs are more frequently in Latin or old Church-Slavonic (in case of Rahmaninov or some Croatian composers) than in modern Croatian (Latin is still taught for 2 years in many Croatian hight schools; thus I can recite Kyrie eleison, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei by heart; I can even recite the entire Credo; I think this knowledge of Latin makes me feel the beauty of music more profoudly). Thus, on Christmas, Palm Sunday and Pentecost I attend the 11:00 mass. Attending the Easter Vigil is one of the most beautiful events in my entire year (to prevent anyone from thinking that I have nothing to do but think of reading a Missal, I will just recall that I am a 30-year-old layman, married, with a 2-year-old son and a 2-month-old daughter). And hearing Veni, Creator Spiritus on Pentecost day is a feeling I am not capable to describe properly. I also like to attend the ordaining of young Jesuit priests when the event happens in “my” church (diocesan priests are always ordained in the cathedral by our cardinal archbishop, but Jesuits are sometimes ordained on St. Ignatius, July 31, in “my” Jesuit basilica, by the Jesuit auxilliary bishop). The point is: Sunday mass is the high point of a week, a celebration of the week. The masses on Christmas, Easter, Pentecost as well as the ordaining are higher-rank celebrations held several times a year. Proper celebration NEEDS ceremony. We need a celebration, a feast, to remind us gently on the principles of our life, our faith. And this is the point of the Sacraments. The Lord himself instituted the Eucharist as such a gathering. We, sinful people, need Sacraments to remind us. We can speak to our God without going to confession. But God and the Church established confession as Sacrament because we, sinful and weak, need something more solemn to take the thinks seriously.
    A problem comes when celebrations become (as Anura said) decorative. Spending money for the sake of nothing. But an even larger problem arrives when we see churchmen (and ourselves, as well) being corrupted every day. Spending some money on a consistory is a lesser evil than see churchmen travelling in the business class instead of the economy class. Wearing expensive clothes or expensive (sun)glasses. Driving expensive cars. Some clergymen in Croatia drive a Mercedes. Not the cheapest one. They say that sponsors bought them cars. I do believe they did. But those clergymen had to remember that driving a large Toyota (instead of a Mercedes) is quite enough for them. We should not ask for poverty but modesty. The sponsors should have bought a Toyota and give the rest of the money to a missionary in some poor country. Or for schooling poor children in our own country…
    So much about celebrations and pomp. Sorry for being too long, but I felt I needed to be personal.
    Blessings to all of you!

  6. You are INDEED always the supreme man of compromise. I am trying to learn from you. I would call you THE Bridge Builder, Pontifix in Latin, if not for the fact that I am SURE that somebody in your line of command appropriated it c. 383 when Emperor Gratian stopped using it. Maybe we could go with Pontifex Localale — local bridge builder, so that people wouldn’t think you were thinking of building bridges across the Tiber. [[SMILE]]
    John, I have agitated for equitable representation EVER SINCE I have had a papal blog! I even have table on page 8 of The Next Pope to highlight how cardinal representation is totally skewed. Having more cardinals will bother some.
    But, I am TOTALLY in agreement that there is a urgent need for papal electoral reform — and that basically means rethinking the College of Cardinals.
    Hence my ‘Change 120’ call and logo.
    Thanks, Father. Keep up the good work. Lot of people very interested in your words.

  7. Hey Marko B.,
    Good to hear from you again. Long time no hear. I think, and I may be wrong, this is the first time you have commented on this blog. I remember you well from the Summer when you helped me work out precedence among the cardinals. Thank you.
    Marko, have you seen this post where I list all the consistories since 1900 and also include some of the statistics:
    John Paul II (#265) held his 9 consistories with an average gap of 36.1 months between them; i.e., just over 3 years (as you stated).
    John XXIII (#265) was in a hurry. The gap between his 5 consistories was 9.25 months.
    Benedict XVI (#266) held his first cardinal creating consistory 11 months into his pontificate. The next came 20 months later.
    Pius XII (#261) gave his successors plenty of leeway by having a 82 month gap!
    I have no problem with a June 29, 2011 consistory. That would be good. Yes, we will be down to about 95. No harm — even if there was to be a conclave!
    But, as I have stated we have a 7 month hiatus after April 11, 2011 when none of the current electors will turn 80. Easter next year is on April 24 — or thereabouts. So there could be a pre-Easter consistory.
    This is good. PLEASE visit more often.
    Thank you.

  8. Dear Marko B.,
    This comment MADE MY DAY. First and foremost CONGRATULATIONS on your 2 month old daughter. That is GREAT. That is a celebration. I have three, plus a son.
    Marko, this was one of the BEST COMMENTS I have received, EVER. Thank you. You stated that you are familiar with Latin. Croatian is probably your mother tongue. But, you have perfect grasp of English. Bravo.
    Celebration is good and important. Music as a means of celebration is WONDERFUL. I used to love evensong, in Cathedrals, in England.
    Marko, you captured my feelings exactly. Expensive clothing, sunglasses, watches, cars. The Toyota example is very good. Let us NOT even visit their expensive and expansive tastes when it comes to food, wine, cigars and brandy.
    Let me, please, talk of two specific things that BOTHER me.
    This pope started wearing the traditional Y shaped pallium. That is good. Going back to the ‘roots.’ BUT, he uses 3 GOLD pins, jewel encrusted to represent the three nails used during the Crucifixion.
    JEWEL encrusted, GOLD!
    Come on — that is supposed to represent the probably slightly rusted, iron nails used. To me that is insulting.
    Also the pope’s ermine-trimmed winter mozzetta. Does the pope think that people will think less of him if he didn’t wear his elaborate and expensive vestments.
    I will GLADLY donate the pope, three safety pins to hold up his pallium, IF he would sell the three, jewel encrusted gold pins (and as Paul VI did with A tiara (not all of them)) give the proceeds to charity … not sure how things are in Croatia … but if you don’t need it there are plenty of decent Catholic kids in Ceylon still suffering.
    So get the word out. I will send the pope three safety pins … BEST quality, from the US. Get rid of the gold pins.
    [[And just for the record. In my youth, when I was a hot shot marketeer and consultant, I used to DRIP GOLD … the US belief being that you have to show that you are successful to attract new business. But these days I don’t even wear a wrist watch, let alone the heavy gold bracelets — even when my wife says she misses seeing me with my Rolexes with diamonds on the numerals. And I too can say … I got my Rolexes from sponsors, in my case book publishers who wanted to sign me up.]]
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Enjoy the 2 month old. We can’t have anymore children. Too old. But, boy, what I wouldn’t give for a 2 month old.

  9. Marko B, thanks are certainly in order. The newest member (to marry) into my family is a Croatian named Marko B! I certainly agree with your sentiments. To continue Anura reasoning, and maybe a chapter in his next book, we can talk about election of pastors and bishops! This would truly begin to see the restructuring of the church and the Papal Elections. Bishops should even nominate man of character from their country or perhaps a foreign country to become Cardinals. In this way, Cardinals will be tied to the dignity of their person rather than the size ($$$) of their diocese or the title of their Roman Congregation.

  10. However, the more I have been thinking about it, I think there needs to be either more Cardinals or there needs to be a Bishop’s Senate, where there could be representation from every country, and then a House of Reps, where Bishop Electors and/or Cardinals are chosen in relationship to percentage of Catholics (or something else like Dioceses/Parishes/Priests) in a particular country or region. Although they are attempting to do something like it, it would be nice to see it mandated.

    Very American perspective, Ft. John! I admit, I (as a naturalized American citizen) do not like how the Senate works here – with Wyoming and California have the same representation and thus 41 senators representing 15% of the country can filibuster legislation.

    I propose a different system. Have a Council of Bishops act as the lower house in the Vatican. Have clergy from every country elect 1 bishop-representative for every 5 million Catholics in that country with rounding up (i.e. 1 million = 1 bishop-rep, 6 million = 2 bishop-reps). To avoid small countries have disproportionate representation, have countries with less than a million Catholics vote with a neighboring country. This should give you a ~300 strong Council of Bishops.
    College of Cardinals (voting members only) can act as the upper house. Being “princes of the Church” they’d be more akin to the House of Lords than US Senate but that’s ok. As I wrote before, I think that there should be an “expansion” of 30 cardinals from the Global South both to reflect demographic shifts within the Catholic Church and to avoid alienating Europeans by stripping cardinalates from them (as you would have to do without expanding the college). Also I think the college is too old so I would lower the voting age to 75 (and I like Anura’s idea to retire cardinals at 85 or 90).

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