Cardinalatial appointments

In a conclave to be held next month, Francis will give fifteen bishops red hats, and Father Dwight Longenecker draws attention to the fact that neither Blase Cupich, the newly-minted Archbishop of Chicago, nor Jose Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles since 2011, are among them. 1 There are several problems with Longenecker’s piece, but I want to focus on just one. Careful writers do well to avoid shaky inferences, but Longenecker writes: “Francis is relegating some of the major Catholic players from the high table. Los Angeles and Chicago not having cardinals? That’s a big deal and it must mean that little Francis, the bus riding bishop from Argentina is making a point.” It isn’t a big deal, and it need not mean any such thing.

I had thought that popes customarily avoid giving any given bishopric two votes in the conclave by prematurely elevating the successor of a Cardinal who is still eligible to vote. 2 And both Gonzales’ and Cupich’s predecessors, Roger Card. Mahoney and Francis Card. George remain eligible to vote in a conclave. (Cupich, moreover, has been in the job for about an hour.) Los Angeles did not “have” (in the sense of “was not led by”) a Cardinal between Mahoney’s unfortunate appointment in 1985 and his lamentable elevation in 1991, after his predecessor, Timothy Card. Manning, died aged 79. (Chicago’s situation was different because George’s predecessor, Joseph Card. Bernardin, had died in the job.)

One might as well ask why Archbishop Chaput (D. Philadelphia) has not yet received a red hat: Justin Card. Rigali is still eligible to vote. If Francis is deliberately eschewing any elevation, it’s Chaput, who represents much of what Francis is not, but Chaput is not yet being slighted. Or consider that Vincent Card. Nicols was on the job for three consistories before finally receiving a red hat in 2014. All manner of hay might be made from that; after all, one would have to go back a century—to Francis Card. Bourne, who became Archbishop of Westminster on September 11, 1903 and was not elevated to the cardinalate until November 27, 1911—to find a prelate who has occupied the see of Westminister for so long without being made a Cardinal as Nicols. 3 But Nicols’ predecessor, Cormac Card. Murphy-O’Connor, did not turn eighty until a few weeks before Pope Benedict’s final conclave, announced in October 2012, and that conclave was itself extraordinary. Similarly, Timothy Card. Dolan’s elevation came in February 2012, weeks before his predecessor, Edward Card. Egan, turned eighty.

The same is true of Madrid, also cited by Longenecker. Like Cupich, Carlos +Sierra has been on the job for a short period of time, and his see has an emeritus bishop, Antonio Card. Varela, who is still eligible to vote in conclave. If any lacunae in the list are odd, it is Venice and Turin. Francesco +Moraglia was appointed patriarch of Venice in 2012, and his predecessor, Angelo Card. Scola, did not retire but was instead transferred to the archbishopric of Milan. Cesare +Nosiglia was appointed to succeed Severino Card. Poletto in 2010, but Poletto turned 81 last spring. Both sees are traditionally led by a cardinal, and the situations of neither Scola nor Poletto pose obstacles to giving red hats to Moraglia and Nosiglia. If there is hay to be made, it is those two omissions, not Chicago, L.A., or Madrid.


  1. Longenecker, What’s Pope Francis Up To?, Standing On My Head, January 6, 2015, (last visited Jan. 12, 2015).
  2. And perhaps I was wrong, but cf. Don Clemmer, A Numbers Exercise with Cardinals, USCCB Media Blog, April 17, 2009, (last visited Jan. 12, 2015) (“tradition does not allow for more than one cardinal who is eligible to vote in a conclave for a new pope per diocese”).
  3. See Simon Dodd, Still no red hat for +Nicols, Motu Proprio, Oct. 24, 2012,