11 March 2016

Yet another bachelor??

Cardinal Nichols, I gather, has been mentioned quite a bit by those who like to speculate, as a probable Cardinal Prefect of the new dicastery for the Family. I have nothing against this; if that's the sort of career move that appeals to him, good luck to him.

But Papa Bergoglio would enhance his Media reputation for being a man who thinks 'outside the box' if he appointed a married man or woman to head the Congregation of the Family. After all, there are very many married Catholics in families throughout the world! I am not one of those who assume that celibate clergy know nothing about family life: after all, most of them grew up in families! But ... well ... there are an awful lot of bachelors in the Roman Curia already, and a bit of a break from wall-to-wall bachelordom would make it a trifle less monochrome an organisation. And there could hardly be a better place to start than this.

I see no peremptory doctrinal reason why dicasterial heads should not be lay*; nor would it worry me to see a woman in such a role (Mary Ann Glendon, sadly, is beyond the retirement age). But I would agree that there is a great suitability in the Curia Romana consisting of the Clerus Romanus, in the shape of the Suburbicarian Bishops, the Cardinal Presbyters, and the Cardinal Deacons of the Holy Roman Church.

And it would be splendid if we could move back to having, at least sometimes and in principle, presbyters as Cardinal Presbyters, deacons as Cardinal Deacons. One of the few things on which Cardinal Kasper and I agree is that there is something totally unnecessary about making all top dicasterial functionaries into bishops. As I wrote at the beginning of this Pontificate, Episcopal Consecration should no longer be seen as a snazzy fashion accessory or as a way of giving a bureaucrat enhanced status so that the Swiss Guards have to salute him, just like the sentries at Horseguards' Parade saluting bowler-hatted brigadiers. The rule whereby senior Vatican bureaucrats all have to be hosed down with episcopacy before they can properly push pen on paper is daft. In fact, that silly rule was brought in as recently as the pontificate of S John XXIII. Only then did the mighty Cardinal Ottaviani, for example, deign to accept episcopacy.

And there are very many married priests in the world: the ex-Anglicans now as well as those from the ancient sui iuris Eastern Churches. Since a 'Permanent Diaconate' was set up after Vatican II, there must be thousands of married deacons to choose from. A really presbyteral Cardinal Presbyter, or a really diaconal Cardinal Deacon, accompanied by his wife and children, would make a massively suitable first head of this Congregation.

I have a nominee, who may serve as a worthy exemplar of the point I am making. A truly imaginative Roman Pontiff would give this job to the Reverend Deacon Dr Stephen Morgan of the diocese of Portsmouth. He's an academic expert on Blessed John Henry Newman (incidentally, another nonepiscopal Cardinal); just think how immeasurably the Curia would be strengthened if it contained more Newman experts. And he deacons the Extraordinary Form, which would qualify him to be one of the Cardinals associated with the CDW and Ecclesia Dei. And he's already pretty eminent, so he wouldn't need whatever painful surgical procedure it is that makes all those cardinal chappies so 'Eminent'. And he knows about money, which would mean that Cardinal Pell had a shoulder to cry on. And he's a committed friend of the Ordinariates, so it would give us another chum in Urbe. Remember us, Eminence, when you come into your Deaconry! Who'll open a sub for his Cappa Magna?

As far as I can see, everyone would be a gainer, except for Bishop Philip Egan.

But I expect the job will go to Vin or some other bachelor, who will of course do it well.

 A pity, though. An exciting opportunity missed.


*HURRIED POST SCRIPTUM: Of course, it would he dangerously, disastrously confusing if lay curialists were given the style "Cardinal", an idea the German and Swiss bishops have just been reported to be sponsoring in their media (I haven't yet been able to verify the details). Presumably, if this were to be true, they are pushing the idea in order to be confusing: "If someone as important as a Cardinal can be a woman, why on earth can't women occupy the much lowlier positions of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons?" The devil's wiles are endless, and Marx hungrily gobbles them all up. I wonder if the CBCEW, in their post-Easter Meeting, would again fall into the German line, as they did last autumn in their disgraceful attack on Pope Benedict's Good Friday Prayer in the Extraordinary Form.


Éamonn said...

There is of course already one layman (in the sense that he is not in Holy Orders) who ranks with the cardinals, and he's an Englishman too! He is a celibate professed religious though...

Anonymous said...

But Father, given the intentionality of the Roman Curia - where a Congregation participates in the 'Munus regendi' ultimately of the Bishop of Rome - it is, I suggest, impossible for a non-ordained Head of a Congregation. (Alas.) It would mean that he or she - a mere lay person - would have some kind of ecclesiastical authority over those clerics who worked under him or her and, as someone as well anchored in tradition as yourself will know: that's not how the Church has ever worked because that doesn't seem to be in the Church's DNA.
Sure - a whole raft of worldly reasons might justify it - but I'm not sure the Church's understanding of this aspect of the tria munera would...

Osmund Kilrule said...


The Modern Medievalist said...

Eamonn: are you referring, perchance, to His Most Eminent Highness, Fra' Matthew Festing, 79th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta?

Also, I absolutely agree with restoring the cardinalate to non-bishops. This is a no-brainer. Reginald Cardinal Pole, though famous for his later life as Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Mary, spent his whole time at the Council of Trent as a "permanent" deacon (a true "cardinal-deacon").

Victor said...

@roberts: I would like to question if the clerical state is necessary for working in the Roman Curia. If it is not, then the status of a lay-led congregation would be equal to a monastery led by a lay abbot.
Consider the case of Mariawald Abbey, the only German Trappist abbey: it's current abbot, Dom Josef Vollberg, on 17 Dec 2005 received diaconal orders, and 29 June 2006 presbyteral orders. Yet he exercised jurisdiction over his monks (including those in clerical orders) since his nomination as "superior ad nutum" on 23 April 2005, more than a year before he became a priest.

Anonymous said...

I have sometimes heard it argued that a bishop's secretary ought to be a deacon instead of a priest taken out of pastoral ministry. This always made sense to me, and in the light of Fr. Hunwicke's arguments it makes perfect sense.

With regard to Cardinals, it was quite common in earlier centuries for these to be laymen - the notorious and egregious Cesare Borgia, for example - although they were probably technically "clerics", but not ordained. Of course, this did lead to abuses such as buying and selling the privileges and children of the nobility being given the title while still minors. So I'm not arguing for a return to that in the current climate which could suit an even more damaging agenda. But more lay and married presence in the Vatican would be no bad thing in principle. The only test should be the honest and sincere upholding of the Catholic faith.

Anonymous said...

"for working in the Roman Curia" - obviously not - there have long been lay workers and experts the Church has called on.
BUT for exercising a governmental function within the Curia - a function which derives its governmental authority from the Supreme Pontiff ultimately - I'm pretty sure that you have to be a cleric - and, indeed, at the very least, a Bishop, precisely because you are an instrument of the will of the Pope and exercising it over other clerics. (Historians and canonists enlighten us!)

As for Dom Vollberg's jurisdiction - I suspect this was valid because he was already 'clerical' by virtue of his trajectory towards ordination. Dominicans, for example, are accepted as either clerical novices (on view to their eventual ordination) or converse novices (on view to remaining a lay brother.) I suspect something similar pertained in Mariawald as far as the canonical norms were concerned. Moreover this was surely an 'exceptional' set of circumstances for which, as ever, 'ecclesia supplet'. There was, for example, NO NOTION that Dom Josef would have remained un-ordained and still retain the position of Abbot.

Éamonn said...

To answer the Modern Medievalist, I am indeed referring to His Eminent Highness.

Anonymous said...

@roberts I know it's not entirely what you meant, but perhaps thinking of a bishop as "an instrument of the will of the Pope" is precisely one of the problems that bedevils the modern Church. I'm no canonist, but surely someone does not need to be a bishop to be empowered with delegated authority from the Holy Father? If it's true that that delegated authority would not be accepted by other bishops unless the delegate is ordained to the same degree of order as themselves, maybe that says something about the way they think of the sacrament of order in terms of personal status or career, and that could be another problem that bedevils us. Hildebrand, later Pope St. Gregory VII, was appointed as a (highly successful) papal administrator and legate having been specially ordained as a deacon for those purposes. He was only ordained priest and then bishop when he was elected as Pope.

Chaswjd said...

On a theoretical level I would agree with the point. From a perspective of church history and ministerial function, the proposal makes sense.

But I disagree on a practical level. The curia has to deal with bishops and archbishops across the world. Being a bishop makes the member of the curia much more the "equal" of the local bishop he is trying to deal with. Banks in the United States traditionally have vast numbers of "vice presidents," more than would be justified by the bank's need for governance. The title, however, does put the bank representative on a much more equal footing with the client he or she is dealing with. I think the same can be said for the curia and its "clients."

Sue Sims said...

And you're not having Stephen Morgan. He's ours!

Anonymous said...

I think you rather prove my point with this:
"Hildebrand, later Pope St. Gregory VII, was appointed as a (highly successful) papal administrator and legate having been specially ordained as a deacon for those purposes. He was only ordained priest and then bishop when he was elected as Pope."
That's to say he was CLERICAL - yes "just" a deacon - but he was thus a member of the Clergy.
The waters have been muddied with our permanent deacons with their wives and lives in the World. It wasn't always thus...

"I'm no canonist, but surely someone does not need to be a bishop to be empowered with delegated authority from the Holy Father." I'm no canonist either but as I said in my first comment: the Congregations aren't working with a delegated authority (of their own) from the Pope as much as being instruments of his papal authority. The nuance being that their intentionality is that of the Supreme Pontiff's munus regendi. As such, this being episcopal and of the episcopate that has authority over the whole Church those who head up each congregation etc need to participate in the fulness of the tria munera themselves.
A lay person doesn't therefore they can't.
Charles Kramer correctly identifies the practical considerations that condition the circumstances of the exercising of that authority but the essential determining consideration is, I suggest, to do with what the Congregations ARE (in relation to the Supreme Pontiff - which is to say their intentionality is an extension of his own) and - as anachronistic as this sounds in our democratic age - the fact that the Church's Divine Constitution is Clerical - yes, in the service of the Laity - but be that as it may the government, teaching and worshipping of the Church goes through the authority of the Bishops and Priests. It just does. A lay Head of a Congregation flies in the face of that. How could it happen without radically re-defining certain fundamentals of who, in fact, governs the Church?

On the downside, of course, this does make Clericalism and clerical ambition virtually inevitable. (When you add fallen human nature into the mix) but it also rather make sense of Our Lord's admonition: "To those whom much has been given, much will be asked."