Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to the Cause - The Cardinalate

I thought it'd be good to have a look at what the Church says a cardinal is. The following constitutes a selection from The Code of Canon Law, (Book II, Part II, Sec. I, Ch. III) relevant to our purposes:


Can. 349 The cardinals of the Holy Roman Church constitute a special college which provides for the election of the Roman Pontiff according to the norm of special law. The cardinals assist the Roman Pontiff either collegially when they are convoked to deal with questions of major importance, or individually when they help the Roman Pontiff through the various offices they perform, especially in the daily care of the universal Church.
Can. 351 §1. The Roman Pontiff freely selects men to be promoted as cardinals, who have been ordained at least into the order of the presbyterate and are especially outstanding in doctrine, morals, piety, and prudence in action; those who are not yet bishops must receive episcopal consecration.
Can. 353 §1. The cardinals especially assist the supreme pastor of the Church through collegial action in consistories in which they are gathered by order of the Roman Pontiff who presides. Consistories are either ordinary or extraordinary.

Can. 353 §2. For an ordinary consistory, all the cardinals, at least those present in Rome, are called together to be consulted concerning certain grave matters which occur rather frequently or to carry out certain very solemn acts.

Can. 356 Cardinals are obliged to cooperate assiduously with the Roman Pontiff; therefore, cardinals who exercise any office in the curia and who are not diocesan bishops are obliged to reside in Rome. Cardinals who have the care of some diocese as the diocesan bishop are to go to Rome whenever the Roman Pontiff calls them.

Can. 357 §2. In those matters which pertain to their own person, cardinals living outside of Rome and outside their own diocese are exempt from the power of governance of the bishop of the diocese in which they are residing.

Can. 358 A cardinal to whom the Roman Pontiff entrusts the function of representing him in some solemn celebration or among some group of persons as a legates a latere, that is, as his alter ego, as well as one to whom the Roman Pontiff entrusts the fulfillment of a certain pastoral function as his special envoy (missus specialis) has competence only offer (sic)those things which the Roman Pontiff commits to him.

Can. 359 When the Apostolic See is vacant, the college of cardinals possesses only that power in the Church which is attributed to it in special law.

As you can surmise from this quick glance, the cardinals are the pope's special advisers, firstly and primarily, and his special representatives by deputation. They possess a certain dignity in their association with the Supreme Pastor of the Church. This dignity can be seen, for instance, in Canon 357.2, in that they are in a way, per their cardinalatial dignity, the pope's alter ego, in that they carry on a certain aspect of the prima inter pares (the pope's status as first bishop) in their very persons. They are called on to assist him in his care for teh Universal Church - that is the pope's primary responsibility - not a particular diocese, but the Universal Church. The cardinal is closely attached to the diocese of Rome, as they have always been considered pastors of the city. This is no surprise due to the fact that their origin lay in the presbyterate of that City. (This is why St. Jerome is often portrayed as a cardinal, having been a priest of high-standing of Rome.)
It is interesting to note that cardinals outrank patriarchs - although various patriarchs are characteristically made cardinals.

All the adjectives and adverbs used in these canons are particularly weighty. The best description of the sort of person who should be cardinal appears, of course, in Canon 351.1. What better description of the character of our lord bishop Prendergast than: "especially outstanding in doctrine, morals, piety, and prudence in action."

Again, not all men especially outstanding in doctrine, morals, piety, and prudence in action are made cardinals, but all cardinals ought to be men of this quality. As his friend for over a decade now, I can testify that above all other men I know, he satisfies this standard. I won't obviously draw on examples, that would itself be imprudent, but I would invite you, my friends, and friends of His Grace, to offer your support for this man who has always taken such great spiritual care of us.

You should take the time to read up on His Grace's bio. You can find information on him at, on the Ottawa Archdiocesan website, as well as, Wikipedia.

What these sources do not (yet) say is how miraculous it is to have such fidelity in a man, living through the times and places he has. It could not have been easy being a Jesuit, going through the craziness of the 70s and 80s in academia (especially as a Scripture Scholar - the quintessence of suspect theological endeavour!), as he did, and yet coming out of it a shinning example of fidelity and constancy. His peers in the Jesuits, in academics and even in the episcopacy have not generally reflected his virtues. You know this as well as I do. And you know what, he has never said a bad word about any of these groups or individuals in all the time I have known him (even when you wish he would!!).

Perhaps I shall reflect next time on what having a cardinal in Ottawa would mean.

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