Action Alert!

Why not O'Malley, cont.

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Sep 29, 2003

As I mentioned below, there's a strong precedent against having two voting cardinals from the same archdiocese.

However-- as an alert reader has pointed out-- the Pope broke that precedent yesterday when he named Archbishop Peter Erdo of Budapest as a future cardinal-- while the retired archbishop of the same archdiocese, Cardinal Laszlo Paskai, OFM, remains 4 years short of his 80th birthday.

So that reason, by itself, doesn't suggest that Archbishop O'Malley couldn't have become a cardinal. It's just one factor in the mix. Here are two more.

  1. Cardinal-designate Justin Rigali has been Archbishop of St. Louis since 1994. In the past the St. Louis archdiocese has been led by a cardinal; in fact Boston's archdiocesan history shows only one more cardinal than St. Louis: 4 to 3. So if only one American was likely to get the red hat, Archbishop Rigali was first in line
  2. If more than one American became a cardinal, then there would have been a dozen Americans eligible to vote in a conclave-- with none of them particularly close to his 80th birthday. (Cardinals Baum and Szoka, the oldest Americans, are 76.) Given the spectacular failure of American Church leaders in recent years, would you want a dozen of them-- roughly 10% of the total electorate-- involved in choosing the next pope?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2003 11:37 PM ET USA

    It would be premature for Abp. O'Malley to be named a cardinal when he hasn't even received the pallium yet.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2003 9:11 PM ET USA

    With rehgard to O'Malley's non-appointment, there is a further precedent worth noting: Sydney's Pell was givern the red hat even though his predecessor Clancy, Sydney Emeritus, is still a voting cardinal.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2003 7:40 PM ET USA

    It seems to me that, at least possibly, the reason O'Malley wasn't named a cardinal was out of fraternal charity. The Holy Father has given him an exceptionally daunting task as Archbishop of Boston. In addition to the 'scandal' and its fallout, he has to deal with the realities of a seriously out-of-control presbyterate and a numerically (and thus financially) depleted church. By postponing O'Malley's duties overseas, John Paul allowed him to concentrate all his efforts on his diocese.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2003 6:08 PM ET USA

    Reason number two is the most insightful analysis I've read on the issue.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2003 10:51 AM ET USA

    Archbishop O'Malley, a genuinely humble man, may have suggested at least deferring a red hat, the receipt of which which might have re-energized the ferment in Boston.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2003 10:34 AM ET USA

    Reason #1 above doesn't hold much weight because Cardinal Rigali was named for Philadelphia, not St. Louis. Card. Bevilacqua turned 80 in June and his retirement was delayed to allow for local celebrations, etc. In Hungary, the Archbishop of Esztergom (now Esztergom-Budapest) holds the title of Primate, hence his vote is historically significant. A retired archbishop is no longer Primate, eveb though a cardinal. In the U. S., there is no "Primate" title, although Baltimore was our first see.