Thursday, June 28
Rumor: The Return of Lay Cardinals?
A friend passed along this article on Rumors of Re-Instituting Lay Cardinals.
I am trying to check out an astonishing rumour I've heard - I stress it is just a rumour at present and really barely bloggable, never mind reportable - that Pope Benedict plans on reviving the ancient office of lay cardinal... it would be an extraordinary story if true.
Matthew and the Shrine bounced this idea around about 4 years ago. In the end, given that cardinals are properly the honorary clergymen of Rome, it didn't seem like a great idea: how much good comes from the clericalization of the laity? What clerical status would be imputed to lay-cardinals? Could women be lay cardinals?
As outlandish as it sounds, the journalist says the rumor is surprisingly credible:
I could never have anticipated the level of truth they discovered in the rumour, and the machinations behind the rumour.
The last lay cardinal was Teodolfo Mertel. His picture, below, answers some of the immediate questions of, well, what would a lay cardinal wear?
Perhaps MOST unbelievable, after the very public papal scolding that the out-going British Prime Minister received just days ago, rumors also suggest that "the first two lay cardinals appointed will be our own Tony Blair, and France's Jacques Chirac." That is so completely ridiculous that it is probably being floated by people opposed to a lay cardinaliate, in order to sink the whole deal.
The plausible reasoning for lay cardinals, in the present pontificate, would be, as Ruth Gledhill suggests, not simply "to empower the laity" but, rather, to offer dedicated laymen the prospect of a way to make a career for themselves in the Church by means of fidelity," so that some would not make their careers as dissidents." The idea sounds outlandish, but that rational does have a Ratzingerian ring to it.