All About Cardinals
(Pope Pius XII Creates 32 New Cardinals, including an Australian.)
By Denys G. M. Jackson.
Australian Catholic Truth Society No. 1013 (1946).
The recent creation of thirty-two Cardinals by Pope Pius XII aroused worldwide attention owing to the unusually large number elevated to the Sacred College at one time and to the variety of different races and nations from which the newly honoured prelates came. It was also of particular interest to the Catholic people of this Commonwealth, because among those honoured was our own Archbishop of Sydney, his Eminence Norman Cardinal Gilroy, the second occupant of his See to be raised to the purple, and the first native-born Australian.
Who, then, are these “Cardinals” who hold princely rank and splendour in the Church, and are the chief counsellors of the Holy Father? What is the origin of their office and its dignities, and how far back does its existence go in Christian history? If we look back, we shall find that — like many ancient traditional institutions, it has grown out of something originally very simple. The great officers of the modern British State were, to begin with, private servants in the Royal household — the word “minister” simply means servant. The Lord Chancellor was his Father Confessor, who also sealed his letters; the Treasurer kept the accounts of his personal estates, the Chancellor of the Exchequer received the dues from the sheriffs and tenants-in-chief, which were totted up on a sort of chequer-board (hence “Exchequer”). The Home and Foreign Secretaries were just private secretaries who made notes for him and transmitted his orders … in fact, the whole “set-up” was very similar to the sort of domestic arrangement in the houses of the greater feudal nobles. In the same way as the English “Privy Council” developed, so did the Roman College of Cardinals.
THE POPE AND HIS CLERGY.
Let us look back, first of all, to the early days of the Papacy. The Church has always, of course, recognised the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Saint Peter, as inheriting his Christ-conferred supremacy, and therefore chief among Bishops and the possessor of final authority in decisions regarding Faith, morals, and Church discipline. But in the first centuries of the Church, normal control was not centralised in the Roman See as it came to be later, and the difference between the See of Peter and other great Sees was not emphasised outwardly. Indeed, in ages of pagan rule and persecution, when Christianity was a forbidden sect, it would not have been possible to organise administration from a single centre — particularly as Rome was usually the most dangerous spot in the Empire, and her early Bishops almost invariably ended their lives by martyrdom. We have to see the first Popes, then, as mainly concerned with the day to day domestic affairs of their own bishopric in difficult times.
Pope Saint Evaristus (99-107) is said to have divided Rome up into parishes, though a fixed organisation of this sort can hardly have existed in the age of persecution. However, by the end of the fifth century, the empire had long been officially Christian; and in 499, we find Pope (Saint) Symmachus holding a council of the parish priests, or “presbyters,” of the principal Roman Churches.
These were really sort of “arch-priests” with numbers of other clergy subject to them. There were twenty-five to twenty-eight of them, and they were called “Cardinal priests” — the name is derived from “Cardo,” meaning “a hinge” — hence someone on whose counsel important matters turn. People had come to refer to them by the name of their “titular” churches — as the Cardinal of Saint Sabina, Saint Cyriacus, Saint Pudentiana, and so forth. In those days — and, indeed, for very much later, the title was not peculiar to the Roman senior clergy. We find it in the early middle ages given to those of other important sees; for instance, at Constantinople, Milan, Ravenna (three Imperial cities) and at Naples, Sens, Trier, Magdeburg and Cologne.
THE SACRED COLLEGE DEVELOPS.
The Roman Cardinal-priests used to conduct Divine Service at the three chief “Cemetery Churches” (Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Laurence) which were later raised to patriarchal rank, that of Saint Mary Major being added. Each of these four eventually had seven Cardinals attached — making the number twenty-eight. The eldest Cardinal “Archipresbyter” acted as chief assistant to the Pope in all Church functions and was head of the college.
Between the sixth and ninth century the power of the ancient empire — now Christian — was extinguished in Italy, the Pope being left as the chief authority in the city, and the representative of the venerable Roman tradition in face of the barbarian powers established over Western Europe. His primacy — still acknowledged by East and West — grew into a monarchical power over the Western Church, and to it was added the control of great dominions in Italy, and of the Holy City itself. Rome had ceased to be an Imperial or commercial centre; its whole importance was now religious, as the seat of Christ’s Vicar and a great centre of pilgrimage. As the Papal governing authority and responsibilities expanded, so did the functions of the Cardinal-priests as instruments of Papal administration. Under John VIII, in the ninth century, we find them not only the recognised supervisors of ecclesiastical discipline, but also acting as papal court judges in conflicts between laymen and clerics, and as administrators of vacant monastic property, with power to appoint to abbacies by the Pope’s consent.
Now let us look at another group — the “Cardinal-deacons.” As in the case of the Cardinal-priests, their office started simply as part of the normal machinery of an early Catholic diocese. Deacons — as you may recall from the Acts of the Apostles — were originally church officers ordained to administer charities to the poor. For this purpose, early Christian Rome was divided into seven regions — the division is very doubtfully ascribed to Saint Clement I. (88-97). Each of these was put in charge of a regional deacon. One of his tasks, incidentally, was to see that the “dossiers” of the martyrs were kept up to date. Later on, there arose in each region a “diaconia,” a building near a church where poor folk could be received. The custom grew up of the regional deacons attending the Roman diocesan councils, or synods, together with the Cardinal-priests — no doubt, they were needed for consultation. They used to sign the acts of the synods with the other clergy, each putting the name of his region. So it was natural that the title “Cardinal” should soon be applied to these seven also.
They eventually ceased to bear their regional titles, because the shape of the city changed in the middle ages. Then other charitable institutions took the place of the deaconries. At the end of the sixth century, Saint Gregory the Great had eighteen deacons; and Adrian I (772-95) fixed the number of deaconal churches at the same figure. Among these were the six “deacons of the Palace,” with their archdeacon, who took turns at serving the Pope’s Mass through the week. The deacons are also canons of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran (which is the Cathedral Church of Rome — not Saint Peter’s). The archdeacon, being chief supervisor of Ecclesiastical Discipline, as well as Papal finance minister, was the most important cleric in Rome after the Pope himself in the early middle ages. Other persons participating in the Pope’s solemn Mass, or in the ecclesiastical services at the papal churches of the city, are sometimes called “Cardinals” in the middle ages — thus you have “Cardinal-subdeacons” mentioned, and even “Cardinal-acolytes.” But these titles conferred by usage have died out.
The number of Cardinal-deacons was restricted to fourteen by Pope Sixtus V (the Pope of the Spanish Armada period) in the year 1586; that is, to the original “regional” deacons and the seven “Palatines.”
Finally, we come to the Cardinal-Bishops. These are not to be confused with Bishops who happen also to be Cardinals, like our own Cardinal Gilroy, who is a Cardinal-priest. They are the holders of six episcopal sees round about Rome, Ostia, Porto, Albano, Sabina, Tusculum (or Frascate) and Praeaeste (or Palestrina). Their position in the Sacred College came about in the same simple way as that of the Cardinal-priests and Cardinal-deacons. As the volume of the Bishop of Rome’s business grew, both in the Church and temporal spheres, he began to call upon the neighbouring Bishops, both to advise him and to represent him here and there at episcopal functions. They soon became senior members of the Pope’s synod, and handled the most important matters. Stephen III. (768-72) ordered that one of these seven — for there were at first seven — to say Mass at the altar of Saint Peter in the Lateran Basilica every Sunday. In the early middle ages, while the number of Cardinal-Bishops was always the same, the “suburbicarian” sees they held varied. They were fixed at last in the twelfth century; but their number was reduced to six by Blessed Callistus II (1119-1124), who united the see of Santa Rufina with Porto. The Bishop of Ostia is always Dean of the Sacred College.
THE NUMBER OF CARDINALS.
In mediaeval times, the number of Cardinals was fifty-three when the College was full — but they were usually far fewer: and at one time, under Pope Alexander IV (1254-66) there were only seven. Their numbers grew in the period of decline in the fourteenth century — for the simple reason that there were two claimants to the Papacy for a long time — one at Rome and one at Avignon — and both “Popes” appointed Cardinals. The Papal pretenders increased to three for a time in the fifteenth century, before the choice of Martin V. at the General Council of Constance put an end to a most terrible scandal.
This Council demanded that the number of the Sacred College should be fixed at twenty-four — and the later Council of Basle made the same demand: but this figure was never accepted. After the Reformation, in 1555, Paul IV made an agreement with his own Sacred College to make forty the number — but it was finally fixed at seventy by Sixtus V — the number being selected in imitation of the Seventy Elders of Moses. The full complement now (1946) consists of six Cardinal-Bishops, 50 Cardinal-priests, and fourteen Cardinal-deacons. It is interesting to notice that Pius XI chose the same number, seventy, when he reconstructed the Papal Academy of Sciences in 1927 — while the Noble Guard also numbers seventy. The present Pope, Pius XII, while regretting that the limitation prevents the elevation of a number of worthy men to the purple, has chosen to observe it — although, of course, no decision of predecessors can bind him or any subsequent Pontiff, in a matter of this sort. [In 2013, there were 120 Cardinals eligible to participate in a Papal election.]
The Cardinals wear scarlet, not only as a royal or princely colour, but as a symbol of their willingness to shed their blood for the Faith. Our English Cardinal Wolsey (who died in 1530) — who was not of the stuff of martyrs — made a fashion-note of this scarlet which had a lasting effect on the English House of Parliament. He had the seats of the House of Peers — which were then green — re-upholstered in red to match his colours, and red they have remained ever since. The Cardinal-Bishops’ sees were excepted from the undertaking made by the Pope in the Lateran Treaty with Italy, that Italian sees should only have Italian Bishops; so that those holding these senior positions in the Sacred College may be nominated from any country.
THE PAPAL ELECTION.
The great turning-point in the history of the Sacred College — the “Curia” as it is sometimes called — was the decree “In Nomine Domini” of Pope Nicholas II., regulating Papal elections (1059). It was according to Catholic tradition that Bishops should be chosen by their clergy — and the Cardinals, as we have seen, represent the original Council of Roman Clergy. Other methods of choice were often resorted to in early times, however — notably the method of popular acclamation used in the case of the great Saint Ambrose of Milan. On one occasion, at least, a Pope was chosen by popular demonstration, and the nobles and people of Rome, in the violent days of the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries, frequently intervened tumultuously in the choice of Popes. In one scandalous period, the Chair of Peter was filled by a succession of the nominees of two scandalous Roman princesses.
Again, the Emperors — first those at Constantinople and later the German “Holy Roman” Caesars — sometimes enforced their claim to select the “first Bishop of the Empire.” The death of a Pope was all too often the signal for an outburst of gang-fights with the Papacy as the victor’s prize, and parties sometimes resorted to the deposition and murder of opposing candidates.
To settle the election question once for all, Pope Nicholas ruled that the choice of the Pope and the government of the Church in the period of vacancy was to be in the hands of the Sacred College, representing the Roman Church. It became their exclusive right finally by a decretal of Alexander III (1159-1181). It was some time, however, before the details of election procedure were settled beyond dispute — rival candidates, in the struggles between the Empire and Papacy, were often chosen by Cardinals of the Imperial and anti-Imperial parties: and methods of intimidation and violence were still used.
THE CONCLAVE TODAY (in 1946).
The present election and interregnum law is based on a Constitution of Pius IV in 1562. At the death of a Pope, the Cardinal “Camerlengo” (administrator of the Papal estate) and three others (a Cardinal-Bishop, a Cardinal-priest and a Cardinal-deacon) take over control with strictly limited powers. They decide the details of the Pope’s funeral and prepare the Conclave. The rules of the Conclave are read, and the Cardinals sworn to observe them. After this, the officers are appointed. The Cardinals enter their chambers with their secretaries and servants, and the rooms of the Conclave are walled off, access to it being allowed only through a single door, though there are openings for food and other necessaries. Ballots continue until a candidate has received a two-thirds vote — plus one, according to a regulation of the present Pope, Pius XII, made to solve the question whether a Cardinal’s vote for himself is valid. In case of a hopeless deadlock, election may be delegated to a committee — but this has not happened since the fourteenth century. The chosen Pope need not, in theory, be himself a Cardinal — but, since the choice of Urban VI, (which led to the great Schism we have mentioned) the Sacred College has always made its selection from its own ranks. The right of “excluding” a Papal candidate was formally exercised by certain Catholic powers, but was suppressed by Saint Pius X after Austria had used it against Cardinal Rampolla at the time of his own election in 1903.
PRINCES OF THE CHURCH.
To return, however, to history. The Sacred College not only gained the right to elect the Pope in the twelfth century, but its part in the running of ecclesiastical affairs was also enlarged. The Cardinals became a “permanent synod” — practically the only counsellors of the Pope. Members of the College were appointed as his Legates to deal with foreign princes or preside at Church assemblies abroad in his name. They met the Pope in “Consistory” (the name derives from the Council of Ministers of the later Roman Emperors) where every kind of ecclesiastical business was discussed and decided. Cardinals presided over all the great departments of Church government — the Chancery, the Papal revenue, the offices of the Penitentiary, which administer the disciplinary code, the Holy Office of the Inquisition, the administration of the Papal States. Others were “protectors” of Catholic nations and of religious orders. Naturally enough, it soon came about that they eventually outranked Bishops, Archbishops and even Patriarchs. First, this pre-eminence was given to the Cardinal-Bishop alone: but as the Sacred College was a single body, the rest were soon elevated to the same height. Certain extravagant theorists in the middle ages even held that the Cardinals — whether Bishops or not — were successors of the Apostles exercising authority not merely delegated, but of Divine origin: and appeal was made to justify this view to the Seventy Elders in Deuteronomy. In the earthly sphere, in any case, they ranked as princes — Cardinal Roland (afterwards Pope Alexander III) addressed the kings as “brothers” at the Diet of Besancon in 1157.
The title “Cardinal” at last came to be strictly reserved to the Roman Church, and a decree to that effect was made by Saint Pius V in 1567. Leo X had already given members of the Sacred College precedence over all other prelates in the Church (1514). For centuries before that, however, their superiority had been recognised, for after the time of Alexander III the custom grew up of honouring Bishops and Archbishops by creating them Cardinal-priests (or even, occasionally, Cardinal-deacons). But no episcopate outside the “suburbicarian” ones of Rome has ever carried the Cardinalate with it as a right.
EXTRAVAGANT CLAIMS AND USURPATIONS.
There was a time, indeed, when the Cardinals even aspired to secure domination over the Holy See itself, and to change the monarchical government of the Church into an aristocratic oligarchy.
Some canonists set forth the view that the Pope must consult his Cardinals on all important matters: the practice grew up of binding the Pontiff by “Capitulations” at the time of his election to do, or refrain from, certain actions (for instance, regarding the nomination or deposition or punishment of the Cardinals themselves, or in matters of Church appointments and administration). It was held that the Pope could not resign without their permission: that they could rebuke him and even depose him, or call a council to do so (this claim was made to solve the desperate dilemma of the Western Schism). The attitude of the Popes towards these usurpations varied considerably. Some acted like “Parliamentary” sovereigns — others, like Boniface VIII (1294-1303), resisted firmly. Finally, the practice of “Capitulations” was formally forbidden by Innocent XII (1691-1700), and the Papal prerogatives remained unimpaired.
HOW CARDINALS ARE NOMINATED.
Cardinals are nominated by the Pope, and his choice has always been free, though he is guided, as in other matters, by custom and frequently by the counsel of existing members of the Sacred College.
The Council of Basle, in the fifteenth century, made a demand that the nominations should depend on the consent of the College: and the latest development of “universalising” its character was anticipated in the decrees of the Council of Trent, which laid down that all Christian nations should be represented in it. Sixtus V (1585-1590) — the same Pope who fixed the number at seventy — decreed that above all, the Curia should include Doctors of Theology — at least four of them from the friars. The monarchies of Austria, Spain and Portugal were formerly consulted, when there was a question of raising a bishop of their dominions to the purple: and they also possessed national “Cardinal-Protectors.”
At the Vatican Council in 1870, the desirability of having scholarly, wise and experienced men from every nation for the Sacred College and the Roman Congregations was recognised. The rule now observed is that the person nominated must have the qualities required for the Bishop’s office, and be at least thirty years old, except in the case of the Cardinal-deacons, who must be over twenty-one.
In former times, these latter were often deacons and occasionally not even in deacon’s orders. Thus, Cesare Borgia (1475-1507), who had been a Cardinal, was enabled by dispensation to return to lay life: and such eminent Princes of the Church as Cardinal Mazarin, the minister of Louis XIV of France, and Cardinal Antonelli, Secretary of State to Pope Pius IX were never raised to the priesthood. The rule today is that a Cardinal-deacon must receive deacon’s orders within a year of his appointment: and actually, no Cardinals who are not in priest’s orders have been appointed for many years. Persons illegitimately born are ineligible, as well as the relatives of existing Cardinals — but these disqualifications can be dispensed with by the Pope.
Cardinals are created in Secret Consistory, those resident in Rome being informed by messenger of their nomination. The same day the newly-made Cardinals meet in the Papal apartments of the Vatican, the scarlet “zucchetta” or skull-cap being handed to them in the ante-chamber. After they have taken a special oath of obedience, the “Red Hat” is conferred in public Consistory. Next comes the “Aperitio oris” (opening of the mouth) in Secret Consistory, and the “Clausura oris” (Closing of the mouth) at its conclusion, symbolising the Cardinal’s duty to give wise counsel to the Holy Father and to keep the secrets of their office. The ring is given to each, together with the “title” or Church by which he is henceforth to be known in the Curia.
It will be seen that the Church, in the creation of the princely counsellors of the See of Peter, follows her usual custom of emphasising their dignity and responsibilities by solemn symbolic ceremonies. Similar symbolic rites were formerly general in the conferring of high temporal office also — usually accompanied by religious ceremony: and remnants of these observances yet remain in England, for example, in the magnificent Christian ceremony in which the king is invested with his office. Other dignitaries have robes of office and neck-chains or other symbols, which are conferred upon them in solemn fashion and worn on great occasions. In modern times, at least in civilian life, public ceremonial of this kind has fallen into desuetude, and is often held to be ridiculous as well as undemocratic. It may be doubted, however, whether we have gained by depriving our leaders of the outward dignity of office and by the abandonment of ceremonial which emphasised the truth that “The powers that be are ordained of God,” and that they have to answer to Him, as well as to their electors, for their use of the authority conferred upon them.
If, in the future, the full Christian order should ever return to our public life, we may expect to see a revival in the state of the grace and solemn dignity with which the Church has never ceased to surround her great personages. That splendour is not intended to minister to their vanity, but to remind others that lawful authority is a sacred thing, to be held as such both by its bearers and by the people above whom they are lifted by power conferred for the common good.
CARDINAL GILROY’S TITULAR CHURCH.
A word may fittingly be said here about the “titular Church” of our own Cardinal Gilroy. It is the Church of the Four Crowned Martyrs (“Quattro Incoronati”) — one of the Lenten Stations in Rome (for Monday in the fourth week of Lent). This massive building stands between the Colosseum (the former amphitheatre where the martyrs were put to death) and the Irish College dominating the slopes of the Coelian Hill. Parts of it are very old, but it has been much reconstructed and restored, so that architects and archivists have some trouble in distinguishing the ancient from the new in this great amalgamation.
And the Crowned Martyrs? If you have a missal (with the rubrics of Saint Pius V), you will find their feast on November 8. For a long time their names were unknown, but they have been discovered later to be Severus, Severianus, Carpophorus, and Victorinus, who were scourged to death in Rome under the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in A.D. 303. It seems probable that they were Christian soldiers who refused the usual ceremonial homage to the “Divine” Imperial symbols, or to the Roman gods.
Together with their relics were enshrined those of four other martyrs — apparently sufferers in the same general persecution, from the land now known as Hungary. These were Claudius, Nicostratus, Castor and Simplicianus: they were sculptors or metal-workers, who were martyred rather than make idols for a pagan temple. The conjunction of soldiers and artisans is particularly fitting in the case of the present Australian Cardinal, a man of the people who has served his country in war. It is to be hoped that Catholics who pray — as all should — for those who bear authority in our own Church, will not forget to invoke on his behalf these valiant bearers of Christ’s Cross and wearers of His Crown.
WHAT THE CARDINALS DO.
It would take a volume of some size to give adequate details about the work done by Cardinals today either as individuals or in College: and we can only give a few brief indications here.
To begin with, we must notice that, except when they are Bishops of foreign sees — like Cardinal Gilroy or Cardinal Griffin of England — they are nominally obliged to reside in Rome or in the former Papal States, and cannot leave except by order or permission of the Pope. A famous exception to this rule was the late Cardinal [Blessed John Henry] Newman, who was granted a special permission, enabling him to continue residence in England after being raised to the purple. The “Suburbicarian” Cardinal-Bishops are resident in Rome, too, by ancient custom.
The reason for this rule is plain enough. The Cardinals are described in Canon Law as the Senate of the Roman Pontiff and his principal counsellors and assistants in the government of the Church. They still assist the Pope in the solemn liturgical ceremonies of the Roman Churches; they are consulted by him, as individuals and in consistory, on matters of Church government: and they supervise the eleven “Congregations,” which may be compared to departmental ministries. All the Cardinals — even those who are seldom at Rome, are members of one or more of these eleven Congregations. The number was formerly fifteen — including several concerned with the secular administration of the Papal territory. Each is presided over by a Cardinal Prefect, except where the Pope himself is president, when he is aided by a Cardinal Secretary. [In 2013, there were nine “Congregations”.]
The full list of Congregations, with their functions, is as follows:
The Holy Office has supervision in questions of doctrinal and moral orthodoxy, and acts as tribunal in certain “reserved cases” and in marriage questions, which are concerned with “mixed” marriages and the “Pauline privilege.” It also controls the censorship of books. [Now it is called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.]
The Consistorial Congregation prepares business for the Consistory of Cardinals, and creates new dioceses, provinces, et cetera, in non-missionary countries. It also makes proposals for the appointment of Bishops. [Now it is called the Congregation for Bishops.]
That of Sacramental Discipline attends to the right carrying out of the laws relating to the administration of the Sacraments — and, in particular, with certain classes of marriage cases. [Now it is called the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.]
That of the Council is charged with care of the discipline of the secular clergy, [now it is called the Congregation The Congregation for the Clergy] while that of the Religious Orders and Congregations, of both sexes, is attended to by the Congregation for Religious Affairs. [Now it is called the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.]
“Propaganda Fide” has supreme control of all missionary churches and of the training of missionaries. [Now it is called the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.]
The Congregation of Sacred Rites deals with matters concerning the liturgy of the Latin Churches; that of Ceremonies, with the Pontifical Ceremonial of the Roman Church. It also carries out the processes of Canonisation and Beatification. [This is now the duty of The Congregation for the Causes of Saints.]
“Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs” are the concern of a Congregation which deals with civil governments, and with special matters committed to it by the Pope. [This is now the function of the Secretariate of State.]
Universities, Institutes and Seminaries are supervised by the “Congregation of Seminary and University Studies.” [Now it is called the Congregation for Catholic Education.]
Finally, the affairs of the non-Latin “Uniate” Churches are committed to the Congregation for the Eastern Church. [Now it is called the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.]
Of all these, the Pope himself presides at present over three — the Holy Office, the Consistorial, and that of the Eastern Church.
There are also three Tribunals, that of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Signatura and the Rota, of which the first two are presided over by Cardinals. The Penitentiary has jurisdiction in “internal” matters — that is, those relating to cases of conscience and the confessional — and has power to grant graces and dispensations of all kinds including the formal arrangements for Indulgences. Its presiding Cardinal is called the Chief Penitentiary.
The Signatura is concerned chiefly with appeals against sentences of the Rota, which tries in the first instance the cases — including criminal cases — handed over to it by the Pope, and appeals from Bishops’ tribunals. The Rota’s main function is that of an appellate tribunal, ordinarily reviewing decisions of lower courts if the initial court (first instance) and the first appellate court (second instance) do not agree on the outcome of a case.
There are four “Offices” established to carry out the Pope’s business and they are the Apostolic Chancellery, the “Dataria,” the Apostolic Camera and the Secretariate of State. All have Cardinals at their head. The Chancellery drafts and sends out “Bulls” — the solemn public letters of the Pope — the Dataria handles “provisions” to benefices reserved for Papal nomination; the Camera attends to the temporal goods and rights of the Holy See, especially during vacancy, when the Cardinal “Camerlengo” presides over the Sacred College. The Secretariate of State is the Pope’s private office, presided over by the Cardinal Secretary of State. It is divided into sections dealing with extraordinary affairs, ordinary affairs (including the grant of Papal Honours) and the despatching of Papal Briefs addressed to various exalted personages.
Cardinals may be sent abroad on especially solemn or serious occasions as Legates “a latere”(literally “from the (Pope’s) side”, that is, “intimately” trusted) — or special representatives of the Pope. We have had two eminent visitations of this kind in the present century in Australia on the occasions of the world Eucharistic Congress at Sydney in 1928, and our own Centenary Eucharistic Congress held at Melbourne in 1934.
Each of the three orders of Cardinals has its Dean, or senior member. The Dean or the Cardinal Bishop, as we have seen, is the Bishop of Ostia, at present the ancient Cardinal Gianaro Pignatelli di Belmonte, who is also Dean and spokesman for the whole College. He is 98 years old, The “Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church,” however — a special officer for interregnum periods — presides over the deliberations between the death of a Pope and the election of his successor. He is not to be confused with the other “Camerlengo” (Camerarius) who administers the revenues of the Sacred College.
The Cardinal-Vicar is Vice-Bishop of Rome, acting for the Pope in the spiritual administration of the city and surrounding district. The Vicar was originally nominated only when the Pope was absent from Rome: but later the duties of the office were exercised even during his presence. Its authority developed during the “Avignon Captivity” of the fourteenth century, when the Popes themselves lived permanently for many years in Southern France, leaving their vicars in full control. The Cardinal-Vicar is now appointed for life, like other Bishops, with full episcopal jurisdiction over the city of Rome and a region for forty miles around it. His authority continues during the vacancy of the Holy See, and he is assisted by a Vice-Vicar or “Vicegerens” — a Bishop, but not a Cardinal, who can represent him and exercise jurisdiction in his name. Ordinations in the city are commonly conferred by the Cardinal-Vicar or Vicegerens.
The Cardinal Secretary of State is the most powerful personage in the Church after the Pope himself; he is his chief adviser of the Pontiff, remaining almost constantly beside him, and acting, in effect, as the Church’s “Prime Minister.” In particular, he acts on his behalf in his relations with Governments. Other offices, which may be mentioned here, are the Cardinal-Archpriest of Saint Peter’s — whose title describes his charge of the Papal basilica, and the Cardinal-Librarian and Archivist, who looks after the enormous Vatican Library.
ROBES AND INSIGNIA.
The chief symbol of the Cardinal’s rank is the Red Hat — though this is not now worn except at the Consistory, where the creations actually take place. They also wear a red biretta. The mantle was scarlet — first granted, it is said, by Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). All are dressed alike, Cardinal-priests and Cardinal-Deacons being now permitted to wear the pectoral cross, even in the Pope’s presence. The Ring which they receive from the Holy Father is adorned with a sapphire stone.
A certain amount of nonsense — tinged with malice — has appeared in the Press on the subject of the cost of the Cardinal’s insignia. It may be asserted confidently that many of the existing Cardinals are far too poor to expend large sums on their robes — some have had robes of their predecessors altered to fit them. There is no basis whatever for the figure of £6000 which has been mentioned in this connection.
THE RECENT APPOINTMENTS.
The recent appointments to the Sacred College caused a sensation, both because of their unprecedented number on a single occasion, and also because so many were non-Italian, and so few Italian. It is rather too much, however, to use the word “revolutionary” in describing them, for the principle of “universalising” the College was laid down, as we saw at Trent, and the practice of modern Popes has been gradually to give more and more countries representation. Now it is true that non-Italians now for the first time outnumber Italians: they had a small majority, both under Benedict XV and under the last Pope, Pius XI, and the Italians have never been so numerous as to dominate a conclave, even had they wished to do so, since that requires a two-thirds majority. The present non-Italian majority is ten — one recently appointed Cardinal, Archbishop Glennon of Saint Louis, U.S.A., having died in Ireland on his way home, and Cardinal Von Galen, of Munster, a short time after his return. However, the question of whether the next Pope is to be Italian or not is not likely to be decided by an electoral competition influenced by national or cultural prejudices.
PIUS XII ON THE SACRED COLLEGE.
The views and aims of the Holy Father in relation to the recent appointments can best be expressed in his own words, spoken to the world last Christmas (1945) over the Vatican Radio. His Holiness then said:
“For the first time since the Lord, despite our unworthiness, willed to raise Us to the Pontificate, We decided to proceed, if it pleased God, to the appointment of new members to the Sacred College.
“Last Christmas We hinted at the grave and manifold difficulties which then prevented Us from filling the numerous vacancies which had occurred in the Roman Curia.
“How pleased are We, therefore, now to see Ourselves here surrounded by such a considerable number of new Cardinals who by their eminent virtues and signal merits appear to Us particularly worthy of the Sacred Purple.
“This exceptional event deserves in Our eyes to be illustrated with special consideration.
“We shall first of all note that with these promotions the Sacred College will be complete. As is known, Our predecessor of happy memory with his “Postquam dedimus,”(the reference is to Sixtus V’s encyclical of 1586) after pointing out that while in the olden days the Sacred College had been kept too small in recent times it had become too large, fixed the number of Cardinals at 70 in similarity with the Seniors of Israel.
SEVENTY LIMIT OBSERVED.
“While completing the full number, We have observed the limit laid down.
“We regret that such a limit has prevented Us from including in this first creation several other prelates and clerical men, especially of the Roman Curia and clergy who for the services rendered to the Holy See might have been worthy of it.
“It was the more necessary not to exceed the fixed number inasmuch as never before were so many cardinals, namely 32, created in one single consistory.
“The two largest creations were those of Leo X and Pius VIII. While Leo X in the Consistory of June 26, 1517, had displayed the intention of creating 27 Cardinals, he created 31 of them in the subsequent Consistory of the same year.
“Pius VII on his return to Rome, finding the Sacred College sadly depleted, due to the adverse events of the time, created in the Consistory of March 8, 1816, 31 Cardinals.
UNIVERSALITY OF THE CHURCH.
“Another feature of this creation is the variety of nations to whom the future Cardinals belong. We have willed in fact that the greatest possible number of races of people should be represented as a true reflection of the universality of the Church.
“In the recent years of Our Pontificate we have seen, despite the war and even because of the war, an influx from all nations and from the most distant lands into the Eternal City, so that now that the world conflict is ended we shall have the consolation, God willing, of seeing gathered around Us new members of the Sacred College coming from the five corners of the world.
“Rome thus really appears as an Eternal City, a Universal City, the Capital City of the world, the urbs (City) par excellence, the City of which all are citizens, the City See of the Vicar of Christ towards which are turned the eyes of the Catholic world.
“Neither will Italy, the blessed land which gathers this Rome to her breast suffer diminution.
“On the contrary, she will share in the eyes of all peoples this grandeur and this universality. The Catholic Church of which Rome is the centre is super-nationally its own essence.
“She is Mother and, therefore, no stranger in any place. She lives, and by her nature must live, in all peoples.
“The Church represents more than the family — the Mystic Body of Christ.”
MEN IN PERILOUS STATIONS.
For some of the men recently raised to the Sacred College, the reminder of martyrdom in the scarlet of their robes is no mere antique symbol, but the sign of a contemporary reality in the churches of their lands.
Joseph Mindszenty, the Cardinal of Eszrtergom, in Hungary, suffered deportation and imprisonment at the hands of the Nazis, and has been threatened by the Red forces now dominant in East Europe on account of his bold denunciation of the tyranny now shadowing his country. The people are with him — they have cast out the Socialist-Communist “provisional” regime in the recent elections — but majorities count little against the force at the disposal of an alien power and its Quislings: and the life of this Cardinal is a threatened one. [Modern readers will be even more familiar with the later trials and persecution of this heroic Hungarian Cardinal.]
Cardinal Sapieha, of Cracow, returned to a Poland in which “the Soviet army lives on the produce of the land and removes everything that it cannot consume or use on the spot.” It is a land of starvation and misery, shorn of millions of its children, while the rest are subjected to a Communist-controlled regime. So far, no open attack has been made against religious worship here since the fall of the Nazis, but the situation is unstable and the ruling powers bitterly hostile.
The Cardinals of Berlin (Konrad Von Preysing) and Munster (Clemens Von Galen) withstood the Nazis to the face through the dark years of Hitler’s tyranny and the war. [Cardinal Von Galen was beatified in 2005.] Von Preysing — already plundered by the Russian “liberators” — has now to renew the fight against Communism, which has suppressed the freedom of the Christian schools. Von Galen, rated one of “the world’s five great men of the year” in 1941 in America, for his moral courage against Hitlerism, at the end of his life showed the same bold spirit in protesting against the “blanket” war-guilt theory as applied to Germany.
The three new French Cardinals bring the total of French members of the Sacred College to six. They go to carry on the Christian fight in a land exhausted and a prey to bitter internal faction, where Communism is perilously strong — but one, too, where Catholic influence in the social and political field are vigorously alive.
THE AMERICAN LANDS AND ENGLAND.
The South American Cardinals — six have been created — have the task of raising the rather low level of Christian practice among their Catholic peoples — many of mixed blood and very varying levels of culture — and of fighting in the cause of Christian justice: a cause much neglected in lands where luxury stands cheek-by-jowl with abject poverty.
Those of North America — four new ones in U.S.A. and one in Canada — dwell in a world of tolerance and relative prosperity, where the Church’s influence is freely exercised, but where it is “up against” an insolent self-confidence in the secularist spirit which affects even Catholics. The United States has immense power — the greatest in the world — and everything may depend on whether that power is exerted in the cause of true human values — which are, in reality, religious values inseparable from religious truth. Cardinal Spellman, of New York, and his companions, stand at a vital key-point in the world-conflict now being waged — may they prove worthy of their tremendous trust!
England’s Cardinal Griffin leads a Church whose prestige is rising and whose intellectual leadership — mainly from brilliant converts — is of unparalleled influence over the whole English-speaking world. The prejudice against “Popery” is still a force, but ignorant terrors have grown weaker, and many educated, serious Christians outside the Catholic fold are prepared to stand with the Cardinal and his people in the fight for spiritual and social vitality against the materialism, which is bringing decay and death upon a great nation. The problems are immense — finance to rebuild blitzed churches and maintain an increasingly expensive educational equipment — but they certainly will be surmounted.
SPAIN AND THE OUTER MISSION FIELDS.
Of Spain’s future, no one can be sure, at a time when all the anti-Christian forces in the world seem to be concentrating in order to accomplish her ruin. Her three new Cardinals go back to a nation in which the Church has passed through a savage persecution to blood, in which Bishops, clergy and religious were slaughtered without mercy. Will we live to see more added to the 11,000 martyrs of the Civil War? Will the scarlet of the new Cardinals be stained with a new dye — the red of their blood?
Finally, we have Asia and Africa represented by Syrian and Armenian Cardinals, two “Uniate” Oriental churches, a Portuguese Bishop from Eastern Southern Africa, and a Chinese — the first of his race to be raised to the Sacred Purple. These mark the beginning of a process which will change the composition of the Sacred College very radically, filling it more and more with leaders from the growing missionary churches. In fifty years — Pius XI forecast — Christians in Europe may be a small minority, and the strength of Catholic Christendom may lie in this outer world. May the Light of Christ spread in it — and may we, in Australia, play our part worthily in building for Christ His new Kingdom!