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Church Reform Wishlist: The College of Cardinals

The College of Cardinals

[Alternative to many of these ideas, of course, is that the college could be disbanded entirely, and certain offices designated electors ex officio. There is a certain appeal in this, but perhaps it is not prudent at this time.]

  • Zero tolerance for cardinals found to be implicated in the cover up of sex abuse cases. They should be removed from the college of cardinals, not just from ministry.
  • Patriarchs and major archbishops should not be created cardinal, which is proper to the Latin Church (indeed, to the Roman clergy!), though they should be included in conclave, ex officio.
  • The heads of a number of the largest religious orders, male and female, as well as the largest ecclesial lay movements should be either made cardinals, or at least included in the conclave, ex officio.
  • The presidents of the bishops’ conferences could be made cardinals, ex officio.
  • Cardinals should not be ordained bishops unless they are going to serve as bishops (diocesan ordinaries).
  • Cardinal-deacons should not be “promoted” to cardinal-presbyters after 10 years, but retain the dignity of their diaconal office – which ought to be considered equal to that of the cardinal-presbyters.
  • Cardinal-deacons should  be deacons, chosen from the ranks of deacons, who serve in diaconal posts such as the dicasteries of the Roman curia, the diplomatic corps, etc.
  • As a sign of gratitude for their leadership in the last half-century, all the surviving Council Fathers (about 19 in number*) should be named cardinal. The only exception being if they have been found complicit in the sex abuse crisis, or left communion with the church. [*63 at the time of original publication]
  • Lay men or women, whether theologians, religious, or lay ecclesial ministers, who are appointed to top offices in the curia could be made cardinals. Preferably after being ordained to the diaconate.
  • Women cardinals? If women deacons, or deaconesses, then yes. Maybe better not to make it about being cardinal, but by virtue of the office being given the same rights and responsibilities, same access, and same dignity – and taken as seriously.
  • Lay cardinals? The pope could do it, though with the historical connection of the cardinals to the clergy of Rome, perhaps that would take a more monumental shift – like eliminating the college, or eliminating the canonical distinction between cleric and lay states (NOT eliminating the ministries, holy orders, priesthood, etc!)

Cardinals

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