Thomas J. Reese, SJ on the New Cardinals

Fr. Thomas J. Reese, former editor in chief of America and veteran Vaticanologist, sent us this analysis of the new College of Cardinals, in light of the Holy Father's naming of new cardinals this morning.

Winners and Losers in the College of Cardinals

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With the latest papal appointments to the College of Cardinals, Pope Benedict XVI has now appointed more than half the men who will elect his successor. The impact of these appointments can be seen by comparing the makeup of the current college with its makeup at the time of his election in 2005. Who has gained, who has lost?

The biggest gainer is Italy. At the time of Benedict’s election, the Italians made up 16.5 percent of the college. After February 18, the Italian cardinals will be 24 percent of the college. This reverses the trend begun by Pope Paul VI and continued by John Paul II that reduced the percentage of Italian cardinals in the college.

The other big winner under Pope Benedict has been the Roman Curia, which now makes up about one third of the College of Cardinals, up from a little less than a quarter of the college in 2005.

Who has lost? Africa, Asia, Latin America and Western Europe (not counting Italy) are all slightly down from 2005. The pope had to take a little bit from each of them in order to increase Italy’s numbers.

The proportion of the college that is American and Canadian has remained the same, although the U.S. will lose two cardinals this year when Edward Egan and James Francis Stafford turn 80. Nine other cardinals will turn 80 this year, only one from Italy. Latin America will lose three; Western Europe two; Eastern Europe one. Thus, aging alone will further increase the proportion of the Italian bloc by the end of this year. 

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Michael Barberi
5 years 11 months ago
Father Tom; it is good to see your hand in an America Magazine article again.

I enjoyed your article. However, an expansion of your article could have provided more insight and its impact on the problems our Church faces today. By this I means an analysis of the theological and philosophical make-up of the new College of Cardinals as it has changed over the past 50 years.  For example, it is widely understood that under the papacy of John Paul II, only those priests who supported all Church teachings, without remainder, would be made Bishops. Ditto for Bishops who would become Cardinals. The impact of John Paul II's papacy on the theological character of the College of Cardinals would have been enlightening.

John Paul II feared that modernity was infecting many priests, theologians, bishops and the laity. He instituted a so-called oath of allegiance that all priests were expected to sign proclaiming that they believed and fully supported all Church teachings. Those that spoke out about possible reform, a liberalization of teachings, or even the fact that some of the teachings were an issue of conscious, such as contraception, would be anathema to a career killer (if you would permit me some discreation in my use of words).

Essentially, the hierarchy, in particular the College of Cardinals, has undergone a server limiting of philosophical and theological diverity. What we now have is a College of Cardinals that are selected based on how loyal they are to tradition.

Priest, Bishops and Cardinals fear speaking out. This stifles rather than strengthens the winds of the Holy Spirit. The College of Cardinals has become a group that is more remote to the sufferings and cries of the laity and to their non-reception of certain teachings. The upshot is a hierarchy that does not adequately address the signs of the times and the many moral dilemmas, inconsistencies and contradictions between teachings and practices.  Theoloigans that disagree with certain teachings are labled "dissenters". The laity that disagree with certain teachings are invincibly ignorant and are infected with the ills of the modern world. As John Paul II asserted you are part of his culture of life, or you are part of the culture of death. It is perplexing how all of these issues help to solidify and not further divide our Church. 

IMO, taking a expanded perspective to the analysis of the new College of Cardinals would have made your excellent article "outstanding". The fact that Italy has become more influencial does not address the larger issue.

JOHN SULLIVAN
5 years 11 months ago
Why am I not surprised that the "old boys club", the Roman Curia comes out the winner in this latest affront to His Church. Rome-the pinnacle of Catholicism? I think not! I dare say you wouldn't find Christ in the midst of this club. This too shall pass.
david power
5 years 11 months ago
Amy,

That is a little poor I think in the reasoning.
We have no way of knowing if anybody else would be any better as nobody has ever had the chance.
The Italians ,will all of their qualities, have given the Church or at least the Vatican a certain slant.Vatican is a synonym for corruption and sly diplomacy and many less than flattering things.If the Americans were running the show they would no doubt give it another flavour with some equally negative things coming to the fore or the Irish or Spanish etc.The interests of the Church are not best served by limiting the leadership or the workings of the Vatican to one nationality or even to one form of the Priesthood.
There are about 7 million catholics who could do the job of communications better than the current crop or the previous one.Without the collar no job. 
There must be some great Churchmen in America who are not up for a cardinals hat just because they have not been scratching the right back in the roman sun.I can't say I know of any but odds are some exist.  
Michael Barberi
5 years 11 months ago
For the Vatican curia or a new pope to propose a change in ecclesiology would involve the major issue of revisiting certain doctrines, especially Humanae Vitae (HV). Changing the deck chairs on our ship of state does nothing without an objective. This objective would need to be to resolve the Crisis of Truth facing the Church today.

I often write about contraception and HV because this doctrine is the cornerstone to the reform of the broad spectrum of sexual ethical teachings that has divided our Church. Frankly, our crisis is all about sexual ethics. 

Consider the major issues that have plagued us: the sex abuse scandal, contraception, abortion to save the life of the mother when the fetus cannot be saved under any circumstances (the Phoenix case), In Vitro fertilization between spouses, the use of a condom when one spouse is seropositive, and the "unbelievable and often minimized case" of a married woman whose life is threatened by another pregnancy. She cannot use the pill or be sterilized because she is told this is immoral. The hierarchy of values are turned "upside down" in this case. The decision to use the pill or be sterilzed is less important and morally irrelevant than the decision to use "risky" periodic continence (PC) in order to ensure that every mariatal act has a procreative meaning. The "heroic virtue" of PC or celibacy as the answer to her moral dilemma seems like stoic insensibility. The Church's answer ignores the sufferings of millions of Catholics. Any change in ecclesiolgy would have to address all of these issues, because these issues are at the center of our Crisis in Truth! This does not minimize other serious issues not mentioned.

It will take a bold and visionary pope in the style of John XXIII to make any change in eccesiology or to call for a special Synod of Bishops to revisit sexual ethical doctrines. What we have now are many theologians that continue to research and write about new ideas, new scientific evidence, et al, to move the conversation forward. The time has come for the non-clergy, non-theologian laity to speak out, join the debate and make a contribution of moving the conversation forward. Father Reese's article, and his previous works, helps us all.
david power
5 years 11 months ago
Michael,

Most of what you wrote is understandable and probably shared  by catholics in the trenches but you make one major mistake I think.Referring to the "phoenix case" is what most people do when confronted with abortion.
The vast majority of abortions are not  anything like that and are simply the killing of innocent children.
Children in the womb.To place that on the same level as the other issues is wrong.
The Vatican has few if any virtues but the protection of the unborn child is perhaps one of them and something that Pope John the 23rd would have been for and I hope that all catholics would be too.
Life is sacred and beautiful.
    
Vince Killoran
5 years 11 months ago
"[T]he Church in the rest of the world can still learn a lot more from Italy (and its near-abroad) than Italy (and its near-abroad) has to learn from the Church in the rest of the world."

There are plenty of high quality study abroad programs to live & learn in Italy.  The College of Cardinals is not meant to serve that purpose.
Michael Barberi
5 years 11 months ago
David:

By referencing the Phoenix case, I was not suggesting that most people who elect to have an obortion are making it for the same reasons. Clearly, the Phoenix case is not the prevalent situation.

I am against abortion except to save the life of the mother when the fetus cannot survive under any circumstances.  However, my reference to the Phoenix case was to demonstrate that the Church's teaching on abortion is complex because there is disagreement among magisterial theologians, such as Germain Grisez and Martin Rhonheimer, on the definition of indirect and direct abortion and the morality of voluntary human acts according to Aquinas. This was dramatically demonstrated in Therese Lysaught's report to Catholic Healthcare West.

Our Crisis of Truth in the Church today is primarily centered in the theological debate over sexual ethics and in the non-reception of some of these teachings. As Jim McCrea asserted, many Catholics feel estranged from the Church and have left. Others ignore certain teachings based on their informed consciouses and remain in the Church, while the majority of pastors turn their head the other way, especially when it come to contraception.

The real upshot is that the laity have no voice and human experience is ignored in the formulation of doctrine and moral absolutes. We have a Church divided. If you consider history, moral teachings not received were eventually reformed. What is different today is that we have millions of Catholics who face moral dilemma and unreasonable hardship, and the Church's answers seem like stoic insensibility....as when a young husband is seropositve and is told he cannot use a condom but must practice life-long celibacy; or when a young married women whose life is threatened by another pregnancy cannot take he pill or be sterilze to safe-guard her life, she must practice risky PC or remain celibate.
Jim McCrea
5 years 11 months ago
The "smaller, purer" church will have no shortage of old, white European celibates (!) who can vie with each other in giving orders and anathamae to an ever-decreasing white Western membership.  And how long do they think that they can keep the burgeoning Asian, Latin American and African churches happy with 2nd class citizenship and inadequate representation? 
Jim McCrea
5 years 11 months ago
Michael:  but this is all under the guidance of the much-mentioned Holy Spirit - right?

Oh, yes indeedy, after, of course, the HS has tweeted with John Hardon, SJ to ensure that She is on the correct orthotoxic page.
David Pasinski
5 years 11 months ago
Apres Benedict, la deluge!

The next Pope, if he is in the mold of the current college and Benedict, will not be able to hold back the South, Africa, and the East.

With predictions, I may join Harold Camping and the Mayans, but I will predict some such cataclysm.
Amy Ho-Ohn
5 years 11 months ago
Italians have been running this Church for a long time and they do it pretty well, IMHO. It could be a lot worse. Considering some of the alternatives. I say: glass three-quarters full.
Craig McKee
5 years 11 months ago
It's fairly safe to assume that the powerbrokers in question do not own a copy of Fr. Reese's magisterial tome INSIDE THE VATICAN, and have never read these visionary words on pages 280-281:

''Seeing the church as a communion of churches would encourage limiting membership in the college of bishops and college of cardinals to those who head local churches. This would affect the makeup of ecumenical councils, synods of bishops, consistories, and conclaves since members of the Roman curia and the papal diplomatic corps would no longer be made bishops or cardinals. Such a reform would strengthen the college of bishops in its relations with the Vatican curia. The college could further be strengthened by having an ecumenical council at least once every twenty-five years so that each generation of bishops could share experiences, reflect on the state of the church, and take actions necessary to respond to a rapidly changing cultural and religious environment. The role of the synod of bishops could also be enhanced by reducing secrecy and encouraging honest debate, and local bishops and the synod could be given a greater role in overseeing the curia...

To respond to the needs of a communion of churches, the curia might be reorganized on geographical lines rather than the current mix of geography, issues and constituencies. There could be five offices, one for each continent (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America), that would handle the appointment of bishops and relations with the local churches in each region. A curia organized by geographical regions might more easily implement the principle of subsidiarity in the church. Such a sturcture is likely to be more sensitive to the need to inculturate Christianity in local contexts, with less concern for uniformity around the world. Under this model, there could be interdicasterial committees to coordinate policy toward seminaries, clergy, laity, religious, liturgy, doctrine, and finances in different regions of the world. But the institutional thrust would be toward inculturation rather than uniformity. Some offices could be maintained or created to deal with international concerns like ecumenism, peace and inter-church assistance and cooperation.''
David Pasinski
5 years 11 months ago
Thank you for that piece from "Inside the Vatican." It makes a great deal of sense to our Western minds but wouold take a revolution to implement. As we know, power is rarely- if ever - willingly shared or aandoned and this would take such an abandoning of history. Still, I am grateful for this analysis and vision. I just have no hope for it without near schism or worse.  
Jim McCrea
5 years 11 months ago
No wonder Fr. Reese is persona non grata in many Vaticane circles (that's not a misspelling).  He is proposing a structure very similar to how the Anglican Communion works.

It's messy and involves consensus building, input from many sources and patience.

None of these are Vaticane attributes nor goals.
Jim McCrea
5 years 11 months ago
Michael:  what we have is untolled thousands - probably millions - of people who, when faced with the sexual idiocy that comes regularly from the celibate male magisterium on all levels, simply get up, dust off their knees, and take a hike.  Permanently.  People are no longer pew potatoes who are willing to wait ignorantly and patiently for what they have been told is Holy Mother Church to become much less orthotoxically dogmatic and much more pastoral.

The days when the sheople, who had been carefully led to believe that "outside the (catholic) church there is no salvation," actualyl believe that are long gone.
Amy Ho-Ohn
5 years 11 months ago
@David Power (#8), we should avoid over-use of dated and obnoxious stereotypes about national identities, but I would suggest that the concept "Vatican" also implies good things: generosity, humaneness, catholicity, refined aesthetic sensibility; and that those are not unconnected to the traditional predominance of Italians in the Curia.

Moreover, it is not true that nobody else has ever been observed trying to run a Church: at odd intervals in history, the French have dominated in the Vatican and the result has always been an unmitigated disaster. The English run a Church, to which approximately 2% of the population adhere in any meaningful way, a number lower than any Catholic country except possibly the Czech Republic. There are many things to admire about the Russian Church, but their hierarchy's relations with the secular powers are not among them.

But I think the, admittedly controversial, thesis I would defend is that the Church in the rest of the world can still learn a lot more from Italy (and its near-abroad) than Italy (and its near-abroad) has to learn from the Church in the rest of the world. There has been only one Dante and only one Aquinas, and both were Italians.

(FWIW, I am not of Italian ancestry, myself, as far as I know. I'm a standard American mutt.)
david power
5 years 11 months ago
Amy, 

I have no beef with Italians .I spent five years living in Rome and daresay I know a little bit more than you on the subject.
Italians have great qualities including all of the cliche/famous ones that you included but I can assure you that the Church of England or Lambeth Palace  is viewed a lot more positively in England than the Vatican is in Italy.  
In Rome the percentage of people who go to Church would only be slightly higher than that of the English and in the younger generations it drops dramatically.Probably at the same level of England .
There is only one James Joyce and one Abraham Lincoln at the last count there was only one Augustine (the search goes on for the second) only one Mozart officially ,only one Aristotle and ditto Plato.Shakespeare is usually placed as a singular person as is Francis Bacon.   
To reduce Italy to Dante and Aquinas could be seen as a stereotype and a  little outdated or even obnoxious.
  Catholicity is more than incense and refined aesthetics it also means making room for the mutts :). 

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