The reputation of the College of Cardinals has suffered greatly as a result of abuse and other scandals – as has the reputation of the entire church. Now Francis has followed up. Many of the newcomers were once likely to choose his successor.
The publications and condemnations in recent years against cardinals of the universal Catholic Church have been devastating.
They have cast a large shadow over the work of the entire Church. "Dearest Jesus, what crime have you committed / That such a harsh sentence has been pronounced? / … In what misdeeds / Have you fallen into?", the Catholics sing on Good Friday.
Australian Curia Cardinal George Pell (78): sentenced to prison for sexual assault. Santiago de Chile Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello (78): resigned after allegations of complicity, as did Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl (78); Philippe Barbarin (68) of Lyon, Primate of France: convicted of cover-up. Grand Archbishop George Alencherry (74) of Ernakulam-Angamaly in India: blamed for millions in losses from land sales.
A look at the over-80s
Among the over-80s: Wuerl's predecessor in Washington, Theodore McCarrick (89) was even removed from the clergy as a notorious abuser; papal confidant Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa (85; birt. 5. September) from Chile after cover-up rumors from the K-9 Council. Brussels Cardinal Godfried Danneels died in disgrace in March. And several Italian cardinals of the Curia are blamed for their huge retirement apartments.
In addition, there are cardinals who publicly criticize either the Pope himself or his closest advisors; from the USA, for example, Raymond Leo Burke (71), in the Vatican the Germans Walter Brandmuller (90) and Gerhard Ludwig Muller (71) or from Hong Kong Joseph Zen Ze-kiun (87).
Time for new faces?
In sum, probably not a picture that corresponds to the dignity of the papal senate.
Time therefore for new faces. Before four previously eligible cardinals lose their right to vote in the conclave by reaching the age limit of 80 in the first half of October, Francis has now raised the number of papal electors slightly above the set ceiling of 120 with the appointment of 13 new purple bearers: 124 plus the four very soon to retire. Of these 124 cardinals who will be eligible to vote in the future, 66, and thus for the first time a majority, are appointed by Francis himself. A curiosity: Catholic Ireland recently became (and remains for now) without voting rights in the conclave.
The likelihood that Francis would seize this opportunity to reshuffle to now 128 cardinals was all the greater because there are now two rather lean years to do so: The two vintages of 1940 and 1941 bring only four and. Six seats vacant qua age among pope's electors.
In the four years starting in 2022, however, the personnel carousel of the College of Cardinals will once again be in full swing: 46 vacancies for those born in 1942-1945; for those born in 1944 there are even 13 vacancies. Put another way: By the end of 2025, just under half of current voters will have lost their right to vote. Francis himself would be elected on 17. December 2025 already 89 years old.
The pope from Argentina has now appointed a total of 85 cardinals in his six-and-a-half-year pontificate; of these, as mentioned, 66 are still electors as of mid-October. 42 of those under 80 appointed by his predecessor, Benedict XVI. (2005-2013) and still 16 John Paul II. (1978-2005). A two-thirds majority is needed for a valid papal election; that would be 83 votes as of mid-October.