Wednesday, February 22, 2006

This stereotype that's going around

The limit to the number of cardinal-electors is 120. It was set by Pope Paul VI. With the news of the upcoming consistory and the number of cardinal-designates who will be eligible to vote at a conclave at 12, Benedict XVI has set the stage for there to be 120 cardinal-electors.

There is going around this idea that it is Benedict's 'German' attitude and outlook and need to have nice round numbers that is behind his choosing of only 12 to meet the limit set by Paul VI. This comes after consistory after consistory during the JP II pontificate when the previous pope exempted himself from the limit set down by Paul VI.

There is a perfectly logical reason why Benedict is only going with 12 and it fits in quite well with the other news surrounding the announcement. As I explained here, an upper limit to the number of cardinals who can participate in a conclave is important:

However, 120 cardinal-electors is not a bad thing. Rewind back to last April when all the cardinals showed up in Rome. There were all the stories floating around about how due to the global Church, cardinals didn't know each other and there was a flurry of hurried 'get to know you' sessions in addition to the Meetings prior to the conclave.

120 men is right around the right number for everyone to know each other on a good enough basis so that when the big event rolls around, people aren't forced to tack on the 'My name is X' tags. The US Senate is at 100 members. Here in Iowa, the state house has 100 members and the state senate has 50.

It's true that the more cardinals there are, the better represented the Church is as a whole across the world when conclaves come up. But representation can be provided for not necessarily by adding cardinals but by redistributing the red hats. Some thought will need to be put into making sure there are hats in the right places while at the same time making sure that everyone will know everyone else.

Look also at the report that Benedict XVI intends to hold a consistory every year to bring the college to Rome and discuss the business of the Church. With a group of cardinals of a limited size meeting every year, they will get to know each other and learn what each other's thoughts are on various issues. They won't have to spend hurried days going around and trying to figure out who that guy sitting down the table was because the college is just so huge in size. There were plenty of reports of that during the conclave. As the dean of those proceedings, Benedict is wise to not want to repeat such an event. On the same token, getting 120 Princes of the Church together is going to be hard enough. Creating cardinals just for the sake of doing so is not in the best interests of the Church or the cardinals themselves.

So everyone, enough with the 'Benedict is so German' and 'Benedict likes round numbers'. Let's not shoe-horn the man into some stereotype. There was enough of that back when he was the 'Panzerkardinal' and 'God's Rottweiler'.

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