Pope's cardinal choices signal geographic shift, but no earthquake

Pope's cardinal choices signal geographic shift, but no earthquake

Pope Francis’ first batch of cardinal appointments registered a geographical shift toward Latin America, Africa and Asia, but without bringing major changes to the College of Cardinals in its size or make-up.

Announced by the pope today in Rome, the 19 new cardinals include 16 under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave. Three over-80 cardinals were also named, including Blessed Pope John XXIII’s secretary, 98-year-old Archbishop Loris Capovilla. No U.S. cardinals were named.

Pope Francis had the freedom to break with tradition when it came to naming cardinals. As pope, he could have raised the number of voting age-cardinals substantially, allowing for a more immediate introduction of geographical balance in a College dominated by Europeans.

He could have rewritten the rules so that the red hat was not obligatory for top Roman Curia officials. He could have introduced lay cardinals. He could have taken this opportunity to give the College a wider role in church affairs.

The fact that he chose not to make such radical changes reflects several factors, I think. First, Francis probably did not want to be seen as revamping the very institution that elected him only 10 months ago. If deeper changes are needed, they can easily come later in his pontificate.

Second, he may be convinced that a shift toward more pastoral leaders and fewer bureaucrats in the College of Cardinals is something that can be accomplished gradually. Over the next five years, he will have an opportunity to name at least 40 additional cardinals.

Third, the College of Cardinals may not be all that crucial to the reforms Pope Francis has in mind for the Vatican and the church at large. At present, a cardinal’s most important task is voting in a conclave. Although known as the church’s “Senate,” the cardinals really aren’t convened very often in Rome, and there is no indication Pope Francis plans to change that.

Being a cardinal does not by definition bring greater influence in most central church decisions. Traditionally, cardinals have dominated membership in Roman Curia agencies, but it remains to be seen if that will continue under Francis.

A look at today’s appointments:

-- Five of the 16 voting-age cardinals are residential bishops in Latin or Central America, and four more are from Africa or Asia. That’s the shift I spoke about above.

Because the pope continued his predecessors’ custom of handing out red hats to leading Vatican administrators, four of the 16 voting-age cardinals are Roman Curia officials. That helped keep the College’s geographical balance firmly in the Old World: six of the 16 come from Europe (four of them from Italy, which retains the highest number of cardinal electors.)

As expected, among the Vatican cardinals is the new secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin. Unexpected was the pope’s selection of Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; that may well be a sign that the pope foresees a much more important role for the synod in the months and years to come.

-- The pope stretched the numerical limit of 120 voting-age cardinals, but only by a few months. After the consistory to formally create the cardinals is held in February, there will be 122 cardinals under age 80, but that number goes down to 120 by the end of May. (Of course, the presumption is that no conclave will be held before then.)

-- The Vatican said the pope’s choice of cardinals for Burkina Faso and Haiti reflected his concern for people struck by poverty. He also chose two prelates from places that do not traditionally have a cardinal, Perugia in Italy and Cotabato on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. This practice, too, if continued in future appointments, could help redistribute the cardinal population around the world.

-- Many Catholics will note that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin is, once again, missing from the list of new cardinals. No doubt the thinking was that more cardinals from the Third World means fewer from Europe. But Archbishop Martin, more than other residential archbishops, has shown tremendous courage and honesty in addressing the sex abuse scandal, and his appointment would have sent an important signal.

12 comments (Add your own)

1. Jan wrote:
He excluded women! As always, they do not exist ! Wow, I wouldn't want to answer to God for that!

Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 11:49 AM

2. Jerry Slevin wrote:
Pope Francis's curial cardinal appointments suggest Cardinal Sodano's and the ex-Pope's continuing strong influence. Three Sodano proteges (Parolin, Baldesseri and Stella) and Mueller. Add this to Francis' decision to protect the Polish Archbishop, another Sodano protege, from answering for alleged crimes against children as Papal Nuncio in the Dominican Republic. It is becoming quite clear that Sodano's "petty gossip" approach to the sexual abuse of children, even by Vatican officials like the Nuncio, is guiding Francis. This is even worse than protecting Cardinal Law was, since he had not been accused of abusing children personally.

This stonewalling strategy cannot and will not work. It suggests Francis is just a "subject changer" who will not fundamentally reform the Vatican. Now Catholics must consider using their democratic power to get their governments to compel the Vatican to obey child protection laws, as these governments are already compelling the Vatican to obey financial transparency laws. Australia has already begun and the USA may not be far behind.

Please see, "A New Year's Wish For Catholic Church Democracry", at: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-W7

Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 11:50 AM

3. Deacon John M. Bresnahan wrote:
Maybe Pope Francis decided he was tired of any and every tiny twitch of change by him becoming a media earthquake supposedly denoting radical changes to come. That would be a good reason to be more judicious.

Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 12:13 PM

4. studsterkel wrote:
Jan, Jesus selected only men to image the Father. I'm sure he has already answered for that.

Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 2:06 PM

5. Steve wrote:
@ Jan,

Ordination is today's forbidden fruit for the radical feminists who want to be men. Freud had two words to describe this kind of obsession. Women are free to choose from every other tree in the garden.

Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 3:22 PM

6. Shawnbm wrote:
There is more to the Sacred College and appointing men to it than continually returning to the sexual abuse scandal. It is unfortunate that a very small number of priests and even smaller number of bishops and their sins are likely to result in those who love the church to be forced to constantly view everything the church does through the prism of how SNAP and other organizations will view matters. It saddens me immensely.

Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 6:12 PM

7. Michelle wrote:
Jan: Well put. The Women's Ordination movement is growing in the U.S., Europe and South America. The majority of Catholics approve of women priests. There's no biblical basis for "men only" priests. Both men and women have a calling to the priesthood. Any justification for men only priests is based om MAN's rules or interpretations of the bible. As one women wrote..."By placing the blame on Jesus and the first apostles, the Church abdicates responsibility for its own decision to exclude women..." Sexism is a sin and the sooner the male hierarchy of the RCC recognizes that and allow women to fulfill their calling to the priesthood, the sooner the RCC will enter a new spring time. Demonstrations are happening, women and men are wearing purple stoles to church (the universal symbol of women's ordination) and men and women and lay leaders are speaking out in favor of women's ordination even when threatened by the office of the inquisition. It may not happen in my life time, but women will be priests, but we need to keep speaking out now. So thank you, Jan.

Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 9:51 PM

8. Jerry Filteau wrote:
John, I share your regret that Diarmuid Martin was again passed over. He is one of the most courageous, forthright, honest, intelligent and pastoral bishops I've ever had the pleasure to know in more than 40 years as a Catholic journalist. He was actually my top dark-horse candidate if the cardinals in the last conclave had decided to look outside their own ranks for the next pope.

For the rest, I share your assessment that Francis is moving his reform with a due sense of moderation and prudence -- It will take a long time of unstinting public witness and gradual institutional changes to overcome the culture of clerical arrogance and careerism that John Paul II (in my mind unintentionally) promoted with his episcopal appts over his 26-1/2 years as pope.

One of my greatest fears is that in the next 5-10 years any international ecclesiastical congress, such as the upcoming synods on the family this fall and next, will be so dominated by JP2 appointees that it will be almost impossible for Francis to advance his agenda in any significant way.

My next (or perhaps first) greatest fear is that Papa Bergoglio will die in less than five years, and the College of Cardinals, still dominated by JP2 and B16 appointees, will be so distressed about his reform and their diminished role in the church that they will elect a reactionary to return to the (in my mind not-so-glory) years of JP2 and B16.

Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 9:53 PM

9. Xavier Abraham wrote:
Women, like other faithful, are royal priests. It's for the ministerial priesthood that only men are ordained. Unlike priesthood, Cardinal title is not a divine institution, but one that Church authorities created in the tenth century. Therefore, Pope has the authority to re-define Cardinal title if needed, possibly to include lay people, including women.

Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 10:22 PM

10. Kelly wrote:
Yeah no surprises.. Not only this but he apparently celebrated Mass the hideous pre-Vatican II way continuing in the stuffy liturgical traditions of Benedict. This made all of Benedict's ultra-conservative supporters very happy. I guess we can continue with the dismantling of Vatican II. Pity as I thought that Francis was to the left of JPII, but apparently not. (JPII celebrated quite fun liturgies with dancers, not stuffy pre-Vatican II stuff.)

Mon, January 13, 2014 @ 2:27 AM

11. Gerard Prakash wrote:
Let us give sometime to Pope Francis, since too much is being read into his every move by catholics and the secular media. He needs time and it is not right to expect him to dismantle the cart of vatican and be a scorn in the eyes of the secular world which has much dominance/prominence in these days. As a major event and perhaps as an highlight, let us have the laity elevated to these levels which is long awaited as evinced from the second vatican council's understanding. Representations even of the unrepresented areas in the world in the college of cardinals is necessary. Let the Holy Spirit prevail and Mother Mary guide our Shepherd and the local Shepherds.

Mon, January 13, 2014 @ 2:39 AM

12. Jay Barani wrote:
May The Lord give them the wisdom and capability to use their roles to the benefit of the most needy.

Mon, January 13, 2014 @ 5:09 AM

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