Q&A on Catholic Cardinals

October 20, 2010

What is a Cardinal?

A Cardinal is chosen by the Pope. He essentially has two unique duties: (1) to vote in a Papal election (conclave) if under the age of 80 and (2) to serve as a special advisor to the Pope, particularly in the central administration of the Catholic Church and on universal Church matters. The duties of Cardinals are outlined in the Code of Canon Law, Canon 349. The guidelines for Papal elections, including the age limit and number of Cardinals eligible to vote, are in the Apostolic Constitution, Universi Domini Gregis.

The title of Cardinal is the highest dignity in the Catholic Church after the Pope. It was recognized as early as the pontificate of Pope Silvester I (314-335). Rooted in the Latin word “cardo” (meaning “hinge”), Cardinals are created by a decree of the Roman Pontiff.

What is the College of Cardinals?

The College of Cardinals is the collective name used for the Catholic Cardinals. Before the 12th century, the Pope depended on bishops of dioceses near Rome and priests and deacons of Rome for his body of advisors. In the 12th century, the College was developed in its current form. Since 1179, the members of the College have been chosen exclusively by the Pope. The maximum number of Cardinals permitted has varied over the years.

The title of Cardinal was used by members of the College, by priests associated with parish churches in Rome and by other clergy of notable churches until 1567, when the title became limited just to members of the College. Since 1059, Cardinals have been the exclusive electors of the Pope, whom they elect in a conclave. During the “sede vacante” (or vacancy) of the Apostolic See, the College of Cardinals plays an important role in the general government of the Church and, following the Lateran Treaties of 1929, also in the government of the Vatican City State.

Who May be Chosen to be a Cardinal?

Canon 351 of the Code of Canon Law states, “Those to be promoted Cardinals are men freely selected by the Roman Pontiff, who are at least in the order of priesthood and are truly outstanding in doctrine, virtue, piety and prudence in practical matters; those who are not already Bishops must receive episcopal consecration.” The limitation of the College to priests has been in place since 1918 and the need to be ordained a bishop, since 1962. The requirement to be a bishop may be waived, as it was in the case of Jesuit Father Avery Dulles in 2001.

What Happens After the Pope Names Cardinals?

Approximately a month after the Pope names new Cardinals, a public consistory, or assembly of Cardinals presided over by the Pope, is held in Rome. At this time, the new Cardinals are solemnly installed in the College, making a profession of faith and receiving a scarlet biretta, or square hat with three ridges, from the Pope. This is popularly known as “getting a red hat.” The day after the formal ceremony, the new Cardinals celebrate Mass with and receive a ring from the Pope.

Does a New Cardinal Continue as Archbishop?

Cardinals who are archdiocesan bishops, such as Cardinal-designate Donald W. Wuerl, continue to retain the title of archbishop of their archdiocese. For example, the new title for Archbishop Wuerl will be Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington.

How is a Cardinal Addressed?

A Cardinal is addressed as “Your Eminence” and an Archbishop as “Your Excellency.”

How Many Cardinals Has Pope Benedict XVI Named?

This will be Pope Benedict XVI’s third consistory since his pontificate began in April 2005:

November 20, 2010: 24 cardinals
November 24, 2007: 23 cardinals
March 24, 2006: 15 cardinals

Who are the U.S. Cardinals?

Prior to the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI on October 20, 2010, there were 16 U.S. Cardinals, 11 of whom were eligible to vote in a papal conclave. (The year elevated to Cardinal is in parentheses)

1. Cardinal William W. Baum (1976), Archbishop Emeritus of Washington and Major Penitentiary Emeritus (Vatican)

2. Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua (1991), Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia

3. *Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke (2010), Prefect, Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

4. *Cardinal Daniel DiNardo (2007), Archbishop of Galveston-Houston

5. *Cardinal Edward Egan (2001), Archbishop Emeritus of New York

6. *Cardinal John P. Foley (2007) Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

7. *Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I. (1998), Archbishop of Chicago

8. *Cardinal William H. Keeler (1994), Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore

9. *Cardinal Bernard F. Law (1985), Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major

10. *Cardinal William Levada (2006), Prefect of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith

11. *Cardinal Roger M. Mahony (1991), Archbishop of Los Angeles

12. Cardinal Adam J. Maida (1994), Archbishop Emeritus of Detroit

13. *Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap.(2006), Archbishop of Boston

14. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick (2001), Archbishop Emeritus of Washington

15. *Cardinal Justin Rigali (2003), Archbishop of Philadelphia

16. *Cardinal J. Francis Stafford (1998), Major Penitentiary Emeritus (Vatican)

17. Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka (1988), President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Vatican City-State

18. *Cardinal-designate Donald W. Wuerl (2010), Archbishop of Washington

*Eligible to vote in a consistory (under age 80)

How Many Cardinal-Archbishops Has Washington Had?

The Archdiocese of Washington has had six archbishops since its founding in 1939, five of them ‘resident archbishops,’ meaning they lived within the Archdiocese. With the exception of the first Archbishop, Michael Curley, who served dual roles as Archbishop of Baltimore and of Washington and who resided in Baltimore, all Washington Archbishops have been elevated to Cardinal. Their names, years as Archbishop and year of elevation to the College of Cardinals are below:

Cardinal Patrick A. O’Boyle, 1948-1973 (1967)
Cardinal William W. Baum, 1973-1980 (1976)
Cardinal James A. Hickey, 1980-2000 (1988)
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, 2001-2006 (2001)
Cardinal-designate Donald W. Wuerl, 2006- (2010)

Sources: Code of Canon Law, 1983; Universi Domini Gregis; Vatican; Catholic Almanac, Archdiocese of Washington

Office of Communications
[email protected]