He opens the piece “The Catholic Church’s most exclusive club will have new members come February, as the Vatican announced Thursday Pope Francis will hold a consistory to create new cardinals Feb. 14-15. Almost nothing a pope does is as critical to the direction of Catholicism, in part because cardinals are the most influential leaders in the Church after the pontiff himself. In part, too, a pope shapes the future by selecting cardinals, because they will eventually elect his successor. Although dates for the consistory have been announced, we don’t yet know the names”.
This echoes the trend that Francis began last year. At the same time the fact that the consistory takes place over two days suggests a reversal of the reforms introduced by Pope Benedict who shortened the ceremony to take place over one day. The events of the 15th however could simply be a collective Mass with the new cardinals but it is obviously too soon to tell.
Allen says this consistory will be smaller than 2014. Francis should have 10 electoral slots to fill which would bring the College of Cardinals back to its 120 limit. However there is a strong possibility that Francis could go over this with only four other cardinals losing their voting rights next year. Thus Francis could easily have a consistory that would make the electors 124 and simply wait until Cardinal Naguib, Cardinal Rigali, Cardinal de Paolis and Cardinal Abril y Castello all age out by September. Of course Cardinal Lajolo will have already turned 80 in January by the time the consistory will take place.
Naturally Francis will have a small group of those over 80, so the class of new cardinals for 2015 could be 16 or 17 with 14 of these being electors.
Allen adds that “A pope isn’t obliged, however, to follow the rules. In 2001, John Paul II blew past the 120 limit by raising the total of voting-age cardinals to 135 in one of the largest consistories ever, with a total of 38 new under-80 cardinals, plus two more announced to the world who had previously been named in pectore, meaning secretly. Last February, the take-away from Francis’ first round of new cardinals is that it was the ‘Consistory of the Peripheries.’ The global south had nine cardinals out of the 16, while only three red hats went to members of the Roman Curia, meaning the Vatican’s administrative bureaucracy. The pope also made a point of giving cardinals to places that never had them before, such as Haiti, and even within countries he tended to select smaller and often overlooked dioceses, such as Cotabato in the Philippines and Perugia in Italy”.
By way of context Allen makes the point that Europe has 54 cardianls, Latin America has 16, North America has 15, Africa has 12, Asia has 11, Mid East with 2, Caribbean 1, and Oceania has 1.
Allen continues that “almost two-thirds of the voting cardinals (69) still come from the global north, while two-thirds of the world’s Catholic population today lives in the global south. Benedict XVI began to address this imbalance in his last consistory in November 2012, in which he named seven new cardinals without a single European. Francis continued to move towards realignment in his first consistory, and will presumably do so again next February. In terms of candidates from the United States, there are three prelates from archdioceses traditionally led by a cardinal who are currently in line. In order of how long they’ve been waiting, they are: Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who took over in March 2011; Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who was appointed three months later in July 2011; and Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, tapped by Francis in September 2014 and installed in November”.
He mentions that “In Los Angeles, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony is 78; in Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali is 79; and in Chicago, Cardinal Francis George is 77. However, Francis has already demonstrated a willingness to break with protocol. So the question would still be asked of why he chose not to in this case. Moreover, Rigali turns 80 in February and George is in ill health, so there would be a clear logic for setting tradition aside in at least those two cases. No matter what Francis does, many Americans will be tempted to read it as a statement. If a red hat goes to Gomez, it will be seen as history’s first pope from Latin America creating the first Hispanic cardinal in the United States, thereby giving a shout-out to the country’s burgeoning Latino Catholic population. If it’s Chaput, it will be styled as a sign of confidence ahead of the pope’s trip to Philadelphia next September for a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families”.
He ends the piece, “If it’s Cupich, the perception may be that Francis is moving quickly to ensure that his hand-picked allies occupy the Church’s most senior posts. Critics may resurrect charges familiar from the John Paul era, albeit in a different ideological direction, that the pope is ‘stacking the deck’ in the College of Cardinals. If the pope bypasses the United States, it may be seen as a snub ahead of his American trip, since this will almost certainly be the only consistory between now and then. On the other hand, it could also be spun as an education for Americans in the realities of living in a global Church”.