The cardinal who clings to power

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Apr 29, 2019

Cardinal Angelo Sodano met with Pope Francis today in a private audience. Which gives us another occasion to note that Cardinal Sodano remains the Dean of the College of Cardinals, at the age of 91.

Since the new Code of Canon Law came into effect in 1983, and with it the expectation that aging bishops would retire rather than die in office, there have been four Deans of the College of Cardinals:

  • Cardinal Agnelo Rossi resigned in 1993 at the age of 80.
  • Cardinal Bernardin Gantin resigned in 2002 at the age of 80.
  • Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had not yet reached the age of 80 when he assumed another office, from which he resigned in 2013 at the age of 85.
  • Cardinal Sodano—who has shown a marked penchant for hanging onto his titles, having remained in the office that he had occupied as Secretary of State even after his replacement began work—stays on.

There is no urgent reason why the Dean should resign; his role is mostly ceremonial. But if the Pope dies it is the Dean who presides at his funeral, with the world watching. Since Cardinal Sodano has been charged with protecting prelates tarred by the sex-abuse scandal, his is not the face that the universal Church should put forward in a time of crisis. More to the point, why would Cardinal Sodano want to continue in office, aside from his well-established desire to continue wielding influence within the Vatican?

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 CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: garedawg - Apr. 30, 2019 10:41 AM ET USA

    Maybe he just enjoys his job...

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Apr. 29, 2019 11:45 PM ET USA

    Cdl. Sodano’s choice to stay on reverses the noble pattern of Cincinnatus who, having been given the title of dictator of Rome to rescue the city from military defeat and then did just that, laid down his power and title at the appointed time and went back to his farm. This humble, honorable example used to be much admired. Now we have churchmen who amass titles and influence, accomplish little, but refuse to let them go.