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Why not O'Malley

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Sep 28, 2003

Why was Boston's Archbishop Sean O'Malley not on the list of new cardinals?

I think there's a simple explanation.

There have never been two cardinal-electors-- two cardinals eligible to vote in a papal conclave-- from the same archdiocese.

(Oops! Correction: There was one case. In 1998, Cardinal Hans Groer of Vienna-- who had resigned in disgrace-- was still under 80 when Cardinal Christoph Schönborn received his red hat. But take note: Pope John Paul asked Groer to resign from the College of Cardinals.)

Although he has resigned, Cardinal Law is still canonically attached to Boston.

Therefore, giving a red hat to Archbishop O'Malley would mean breaking a precedent-- which the Vatican is generally averse to doing.

But if this analysis is correct, there's an interesting situation in Boston. For nearly a century that archdiocese has been regarded as a "cardinalial see;" the archbishop is expected to be, or become, a cardinal. But Cardinal Law is only 72; he will remain a cardinal-elector for eight more years.

So unless the precedent is broken, or unless Cardinal Law gets a new canonical assignment (a position at the Vatican?), Archbishop O'Malley will not receive his red hat in this decade.

Frankly, that seems unlikely. Something's got to give.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2003 7:14 AM ET USA

    Cardinal designate Erdos Peter of Hungary will double up with his predecessor who just turned 75.

  • Posted by: RC - Sep. 28, 2003 9:34 PM ET USA

    Before Sunday morning, the local media portrayed Abp. O'Malley as rather likely to be named a cardinal this time: they didn't seem to have any clue about the constraint Phil describes.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 28, 2003 9:30 PM ET USA

    Why does something have to give? It's just as likely that something doesn't have to give. The Pope seems to think that some*one* doesn't have to give and someone doesn't have to get. Boston may be important to Bostonians and maybe even to northeasterners in general, but to Rome--what is Boston? And perhaps a diocese in meltdown would be better off with less publicity for awhile. A century as a cardinalial see isn't so important--a decade of not hearing from the Archdiocese of Boston--priceless.

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