Sunday, January 8, 2012
Complexion and Size of any new conclave: Comment on John Allen's 5 'considerations' : 1
One of the problems with Mr Allen's analysis is that it is based on today's situation, that is one which is fluid and will start changing before this month is out. During 2012, 12 cardinals will turn 80 and the number of eligible electors will reduce to 114. So given uncertainty as to how long our present Holy Father will live, he can hardly be accused of extravagance in appointing 18 new electors, as opposed to the 15 suggested by Rome Reports. China will lose a Cardinal during this very month so Pope Benedict has made sure that she will have a Cardinal elector should he himself die any time soon. Cardinal Egan reaches 80 in April and that may explain/support the elevation of Archbishop Dolan. During 2013 a further 9 will become non-eligible to vote in conclave and the number will become less than that which elected Pope Benedict. That being the case, the longer he survives the more likely we are to see another consistory in a couple of years. I can't help feeling that this aspect was in his mind when drawing up the list he announced on Friday. Even a fully 'Benedictine' Pope, of a much younger age would probably have presented a different list.
All but the most intransigent opponents of Pope Benedict must surely acknowledge the deep thought and prayer he devotes to this type of decision and it is based on long personal experience and knowledge of many of the key personnel with whom he must deal. He has done the best he can. Quite clearly he is just as aware as Mr Allen, as to how the list of new cardinals would affect the complexion of a new conclave, should one have to be held soon.. Basically there is a 3% increase in Italian Cardinals and a 4% increase in curial ones. In his first point about the 'Italianising' of the College, Mr Allen suggests that this reflects the Pope's 'comfort level', as if it were simply self-indulgence' on his part, (croneyism in other words) rather than that seven of the 18 new cardinals happen to be Italian and have proved their worth. In his second point he refers to 10 out of 18 new cardinals as making it 'top-heavy' with men of curial background. It seems to me that one will only be disturbed by these percentage increases if one tends to a paranoid fear of Vatican centralisation, or even of a restoration of Papal authority, (in my view the latter having been badly damaged over past decades, and in definite need of tlc)!. Such a fear could of course explain why this present piece may appeal to the NCR readership.
Mr Allen also remarks on the exclusion of ++Fisichella as being odd because he leads the relatively new dicastery for New Evangelisation which is famously dear to the Pope's heart and it is customary to have a Cardinal in charge of matters of particular papal concern. Well, Fisichella is both Italian and Curial, but he didn't make the list. Mr Allen is I fear being slightly disingenuous in not giving any clue as the possible reason for his exclusion. After this prelate had spoken out against the excommunication of someone involved in abortion, I think many were surprised when he was given the task of organising the New Evengelisation. It was a difficult case and I must admit to having thought that he would have been better off keeping his mouth shut. I regarded the move as a sideways one, which had the intention of keeping him quiet and giving him a great deal more to do and to think about. He seems to have performed quite well since then, but imho his lack of prudence (at least) about when to speak out on this or that issue, was noted and did not inspire confidence.
Snub to Africa? Dolan and Nichols in Part 2 tomorrow.