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A dignitary of the Roman Church and counsellor of the pope.

By the term cardinal (Cardinalis) was originally understood every priest permanently attached to a church, every clericus, either intitulatus or incardinatus . [C. 3 (Gelasius I, 492-496), D. XXIV. C 35 ( Gregory I, 595), D. LXXXI. C. 6 ( Gregory I, 603), D. LXXIV. C. 42 ( Gregory I, 592), C. VIII, q. 1.] It became the usual designation of every priest belonging to a central or episcopal church, an ecclesiastical cardo (Lat. for hinge). Cf. Hincmar of Reims, "De jure metropolitani", c. 20 (Opp. ed. Sirmond, II, 731); C. 2, §6 ( Pseudo-Isidore ), D. XXII. Lastly it was equivalent to principalis, i.e., excellent, superior, and is so used by St. Augustine (De baptismo, I, 6; ed. Bened. IX, 56).

The origin, development, and modifications of this office will be treated as follows: I. Cardinal-priests; II. Cardinal-deacons; III. Cardinal-bishops; IV. Cardinalitial dioceses, titles, and deaconries; V. Relations of the cardinals to the bishops; VI. Relations of the cardinals to the pope; VII. Nomination of cardinals; VIII. Duties of cardinals; IX. Rights of cardinals; X. The College of cardinals.


Until late in the Middle Ages the title of cardinal was given to prominent priests of important churches, e.g., at Constantinople, Milan, Ravenna, Naples, Sens, Trier, Magdeburg, and Cologne (cf. G. Phillips, Kirchenrecht, Ratisbon, 1845 sq., VI, 41 sqq.; P. Hinschius, "Das Kirchenrecht der Katholiken und Protestanten in Deutschland", Berlin, 1869, I, 318 sqq.). In keeping with this custom we find the term Cardinalis applied at Rome from the end of the fifth century to priests permanently attached to the (twenty-five to twenty-eight) Roman tituli, or quasi- parishes ( quasi diœceses ), belonging to the church of the Bishop of Rome, the pope –therefore to the Cardo ecclesia par excellence–in which tituli the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance were administered, and which were also often called tituli cardinales . The "Liber Pontificalis" describes as follows this quasi-parochial system of ancient Rome : "Hic [Euaristus, 99-107?] titulos in urbe Româ divisit presbyteris …"; and again: "Hic [Dionysius, 259-268] presbyteris ecclesias dedit et cymeteria et paroccias diocesis constituit"; and elsewhere: "[Marcellus, 308-309] XXV titulos in urbe Româ constituit quasi diocesis propter baptismum et pœnitentiam multorum qui convertebantur ex paganis et propter sepulturas martyrum" (op cit., ed. Duchesne, Paris, 1886, I, 126, 157, 164). In other words, an ecclesiastical division of the city for various parochial purposes is attributed to popes of the second and third centuries. Such a division, scarcely possible in the period of persecution, is vouched for at the end of the fifth century by the signatures of Roman presbyters present at the Council of Rome in 499 under Pope Symmachus (cf. A. Thiel, Epistolæ Romanorum Pontificum genuinæ, Brunsberg, 1868, 651 sqq.). These presbyters were thenceforth known as cardinales [C. 5. (Constitutum apocryphum Silvestri I, about the end of the fifth century, c. 7), D. XCIII, C. 2 (Concilium apocryphum Silvestri I, about the end of the fifth century), C. II, q. 4; C. 3, 4, 5 (Roman Synod under Pope Stephen III, 760), D. LXXXIX; Letter of Leo IX (1053) to Michael Cærularius in Jaffé, "Regesta Pontificum Romanorum", 2d ed. (Leipzig, 1885), no. 4302].

However, not all the numerous priests attached to these titular churches were known as cardinales, but, in keeping with the then current use of cardinalis as the equivalent of principalis (see above), only the first priest in each such church–let us say the archipresbyter. According to a constitution of John VIII, published between 873 and 882, these cardinal-priests ( presbyteri cardinales ) were the supervisors of ecclesiastical discipline at Rome and also ecclesiastical judges. We read in this constitution "De jure cardinalium" as follows: "Itemque ex nostrâ præsenti constitutione his in mense vel eo amplius vel apud illum vel illum titulum sive apud illam vel illam diaconiam sive apud alias quasilibet ecclesias vos convenire mandamus, et ob vestram et inferiorum clericorum vitam et mores et qualitates et habitus vestium perscrutandum et qualiter quilibet præpositi se erga subditos habeant vel quod subditi suis præpositis non obediant et ad quæque illicita amputanda, clericorum quoque et laicorum querimonias, quæ ad nostrum judicium pertinent, quantum fieri potest definiendas, quippe cum sicut nostram mansuetudinem Moysi, ita et vestram paternitatem LXX seniorum, qui sub eodem causarum negotia diiudicabant, vicissitudinem gerere, certum habeamus. Item monasteria abbatibus viduata et abbatum nostra præcedente conscientia substitutionem his, qui sunt inter vel fuerint monasticæ professionis, disponenda comittimus" (Jaffé, op. cit., no. 3366). That is, the pope commands them to meet at least twice a month, in their own or other churches, to investigate their own lives and those of the clergy, the relations of superiors and inferiors, and in general to check all violations of the laws ; also to settle, as far as is possible in the papal court, all conflicts between laymen and ecclesiastics. The pope, he says, is like Moses in gentlenss of government, while the administration of the cardinals recalls the paternal character of the seventy elders who sat as judges under the patriarch's control. The pope also entrusts to them the administration of vacant abbeys and the filling of the vacant sabbatial offices, but not without his foreknowledge.

Moreover, in virtue of a papal provision as old as the reign of Pope Simplicius (468-83), these cardinal-priests were wont to conduct Divine service at the three principal cemetery churches (St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Laurence), and later on at the same churches raised (with St Mary Major) to patriarchal rank. To each of these four churches were assigned seven cardinals; the latter were therefore twenty-eight in number. This is the sense of the "Liber Pontificalis" when it says (ed. Duchesne, I, 249 sqq.): "Hic [Simplicius] constituit ad sanctum Petrum apostolum et ad sanctum Laurentium martyrem ebdomadias, ut presbyteri manerent, propter penitentes et baptismum: regio III ad sanctum Laurentium, regio prima ad sanctum Paulum, regio VI vel septima ad sanctum Petrum" (cf. Duchesne, "Les tîtres presbytéraux et les diacones", in "Mélanges d'archæol. et d'hist.", VII, 17 sqq.; J. Zettinger, "Die ältesten Nachrichten über Baptisterien der Stadt Rom", in "Römische Quartalschrift", XIX, 326 sqq.). For the twelfth century we have the statement of Johannes Diaconus in the sixteenth chapter of his work "De ecclesiâ Lateranensi" (ed. J. Mabillon, in "Museum Italicum", Paris, 1724, II, 574): "Cardinales Sanctæ Mariæ Maioris sunt ii: SS. Apostolorum, S. Cyriaci in Thermas, S. Eusebii, S. Pudentianæ, S. Vitalis, SS. Marcellini et Petri, S. Clementis. Cardinales Sancti Petri sunt ii: S. Mariæ Transtiberim, S. Chrysogoni, S. Cæciliæ, S. Anastasiæ, S. Laurentii in Damaso, S. Marci, SS. Martini et Silvestri. Cardinales Sancti Pauli sunt ii: S. Sabinæ, S. Priscæ, S. Balbinæ, S. Balbinæ SS. Nerei et Achillei, S. Sixti, S. Marcelli, S. Susannæ. Cardinales Sancti Laurentii sunt ii: S. Praxedis, S. Petri ad Vincula, S. Laurentii in Lucina, S. Crucis in Jerusalem, S. Stephani in Cæliomonte, SS. Joannis et Pauli, SS. Quattuor Coronatorum." The eldest of these cardinal-priests acted as their head: he was known as archipresbyter, and was the chief and immediate assistant of the pope at all ecclesiastical functions; from the twelfth century he was known as prior cardinalium presbyterorum .


Besides the clergy attached to each Roman Church, there was in the city a "regionary" clergy of almost equal antiquity, so called because of its relations to the ecclesiastical regiones or quarters into which, after the fashion of the municipal regions, Christian Rome was at an early date divided. For the care of the poor the city was divided into seven regions, each of which was administered by a deacon. The "Liber Pontificalis" dates this division into seven regions from the time of Clement I, and ascribes to Popes Evaristus and Fabian the assignment of the regions to as many deacons. It says of Clement I (88-97): "Hic fecit VII regiones, dividit notariis fidelibus ecclesiæ, qui gestas martyrum sollicite et curiose, unusquisque per regionem suam, diligenter perquireret" (ed. Duchesne, I, 123), i.e., he divided the city into seven regions and assigned them to as many faithful notaries of the Church, whose duty it was earnestly and carefully to collect in each region the acts of the martyrs. And of Evaristus (99-107?): "Hic titulos in urbe Româ dividit presbyteris et VII diaconos ordinavit qui custodirent episcopum prædicantem, propter stilum veritatis" (op. cit., I, 126), i.e., he divided among the priests the "titles" of the city of Rome, and ordained seven deacons to bear witness to the preaching of the bishop. Much more credible is the statement in the life of Fabian (236-250): "Hic regiones dividit diaconibus et fecit VII subdiaconos, qui VII notariis immiterent, ut gestas martyrum in integro fideliter colligerent, et multas fabricas per cymeteria fieri præcipit" (op. cit., I, 148), i.e., he divided the "regions" among the deacons and created seven subdeacons whom he placed over the notaries, that the latter might collect with fidelity and completeness the acts of the martyrs ; he also commanded many buildings to be put up in the cemeteries. In this way there arose in each of the regions an edifice ( diaconia ) for the reception of the poor, and close by a church. These regionary deacons were wont to subscribe the acts of Roman synods and other documents as diaconi ecclesiæ Romanæ, or deacons of the Roman Church, sometimes, probably, adding their proper region. Thereby also were expressed the fixity of their relations to the church of the Bishop of Rome and their obligation to assist him at liturgical functions. It was natural enough, therefore, that the term cardinales should very soon be applied to these regionary deacons ( diaconi cardinales ), as well as to the aforementioned twenty-eight priests of the immediate papal entourage in ecclesiastical functions.

In the Middle Ages the ecclesiastical division of Rome into seven regions disappeared, owing to the changes in Roman topography; consequently, the diaconi cardinales ceased gradually to bear the names of their regions. Of the latter there remain only their number, seven, consecrated by antiquity and their dignity. In the course of time other charitable institutions took the place of the original deaconries. At the end of the sixth century Gregory the Great had eighteen deacons. Under Benedict II (684-85) we meet with monasteria diaconiæ . Adrian I (772-95) fixed at eighteen the number of the diaconal churches, nor was there any alteration of this number until the sixteenth century. In consequence, from the end of the eleventh to the end of the twelfth century, the number of cardinal-deacons was fixed permanently at eighteen. The chief source of this enlargement of their number was the addition of the six diaconi palatini and their archdeacon, i.e., the ecclesiastical officers whose duty it was to serve in turn during the week at the papal Mass ( "Liber Pontificalis", I, 364 7 , 504 70 , 509 110 , and II, 18 74 , 252 7 ; Duchesne, "Les régions de Rome au moyen-âge", in "Mélanges d'archéologie et d'hist.", X, 144). The above-mentioned Johannes Diaconus describes as follows the manner in which these eighteen cardinal-deacons assisted at the papal Mass: "In quibusdam vero dominicis et festivis diebus sanctorumque præcipue sollemnitatibus quandoque sacerdos est regalis et imperialis episcopus, immo patriarcha; et idem apostolicus in supradicto sacratissimo altare Salvatoris huius Lateranensis basilicæ missam debet celebrare; et quando celebrat dominus papa sancti Petri vicarius … debet etiam ibi præsens esse archidiaconus cum sex diaconibus palatinis, qui in palatio legere debent evangelium et in basilicâ Lateranensi et alii duodecim diacones regionarii, qui solent evangelium legere in stationibus ecclesiarum Romæ constitutis. Isti decem et octo diaconi totidem ecclesias habent infra muros civitatis. Et tamen omnes sunt canonici patriarchalis basilicæ Lateranensis" ("De Ecclesiâ Lateranensi", C. viii, in "Museum Italicum", II, 567), i.e., on certain great feasts, bishops of superior rank say Mass on the altar of the Lateran Basilica. When the pope says Mass there must also be present, with their archdeacon, the six palatine deacons, whose duty it is to read the Gospel in the [ papal ] palace, and in the Lateran Basilica ; also the twelve regionary deacons ( diacones regionarrii ) who are wont to read the Gospel in the "station" churches of Rome. These eighteen deacons have each a church of Rome ; they are also, adds Johannes Diaconus, canons of the Lateran Basilica . The head of the cardinal-deacons was the archdeacon, also known as prior diaconorum cardinalium . In his quality of supervisor of ecclesiastical discipline in the city, and curator of the papal finances, he was, after the pope, the most important person in the Roman Church during the early Middle Ages.

Since, according to the foregoing, the name of "cardinal" was linked with participation and co-operation in the papal Mass, or in ecclesiastical services at the principal papal churches of Rome it need not surprise us that, by reason of analogous participation in these services, other Roman ecclesiastics, from the deacons downwards, came to bear the title of cardinal. Cardinal-subdeacons are often mentioned, and once even cardinal-acolytes. In the "Commentarius electionis Gregorii VII" the electors are said to be "Romanæ ecclesiæ cardinales clerici, acoliti, subdiaconi, diaconi, presbyteri" (Jaffé, Bibliotheca Rer. Germ., Berlin, 1864, II, 9 sqq.).


In the course of time and according as the papal headship of the Church manifested itself more and more, the volume of ecclesiastical and temporal business increased greatly at Rome, in consequence of which the popes called in neighbouring bishops to represent them at episcopal functions and to aid them with their counsel. They also followed the custom, widespread in the early medieval period, of dealing with the important questions in synodal meetings. The "Liber Pontificalis" says of Stephen III (768-772): "Erat enim hisdem præfatus beatissimus præsul ecclesiæ traditionis observator. Hic statuit ut omni dominico die a septem episcopis cardinalibus ebdomadariis, qui in ecclesiâ Salvatoris observant, missarum sollemnia super altare beati Petri celebraretur et Gloria in excelsis Deo diceretur" (I, 478), i.e., the pope, as a diligent custodian of tradition ordered that every Sunday solemn Mass should be said on the altar of St. Peter, in the Lateran Basilica, by one of the seven cardinal-bishops in weekly service at which Mass also the "Gloria in Excelsis" should be sung. This statement takes it for granted that at the end of the eighth century the weekly service of the cardinal-bishops was already an ancient custom. That these bishops also received the name of episcopi cardinales is intelligible enough after what has been said. Though the number of cardinal-bishops has always been seven, their particular sees have not shared the same fixity. In the entourage and service of the pope we meet not only bishops of Ostia, Porto, Albano, Præneste, and Silva Candida, but also bishops of Velletri, Gabii, Tivoli, Anagni, Nepi, and Segni (Phillips, Kirchenrecht, VI, 178 sqq.; Hinschius, Kirchenrecht, I, 324 sqq.). It is only since the beginning of the twelfth century that the cardinalitial dioceses were finally fixed as the seven in the immediate vicinity of Rome, hence suburbicaria : Ostia, Porto, Santa Rufina (Silva Candida), Albano, Sabina, Tusculum (Frascati), Præneste ( Palestrina ). (Cf. Johannes Diaconus, "De eccl. Later.", c. xvi, ed. Mabillon, in "Museum Ital.", II, 574; L. Duchesne, "Le sedi episcopali nell' antico ducato di Roma", 1892, 6 sqq.) In the twelfth century the number of the cardinalitial dioceses was diminished by one, when Callistus II united Santa Rufina (Silva Candida) with Porto, so that only six remained. In the Middle Ages, therefore, the cardinals should have numbered fifty-three or fifty-four. As a rule, however, they were fewer; after the thirteenth century their number often sank considerably. Under Alexander IV (1254-61) there were but seven cardinals. During the Western Schism their number increased, inasmuch as each of the contending claimants created his own college of cardinals. The Council of Constance demanded that their number be fixed at twenty-four ( Martin V , in his Decree of Reform, 1418, C. 1 "De numero et qualitate cardinalium"; cf. B. Hübler, "Die Konstanzer Reformation und die Konkordate von 1418", Leipzig, 1867, 128). The same number was demanded by the Council of Basle in 1436 (Sess. XXIII, c. iv, "De numero et qualitate cardinalium", in Hardouin, "Acta Conc.", Paris, 1714, VIII, 1206 xq.). In 1555 an agreement was reached between Paul IV and the cardinals, whereby their number was fixed at forty, but this agreement was never carried out. On the other hand, Sixtus V , by his yet valid constitutions "Postquam verus", of 3 Dec., 1586 (§ 4), and "Religiosa sanctorum", of 13 April, 1587, fixed the number of cardinals at seventy, six cardinal-bishops, fifty cardinal-priests, and fourteen cardinal-deacons, in imitation of the seventy elders of Moses, and declared null and void all nominations in excess of this number (Bullarium Rom., Turin, 1857, VIII, 810 sqq., 833 sqq.). As a matter of fact, such nominations would not be invalid, and have been made (Archiv. f. kathol. Kirchenrecht, LXIX, 167 sq.).


The actual cardinalitial dioceses are Ostia and Velletri, Porto and Santa Rufina, Albano, Frascati (Tusculum), Palestrina (Præneste), and Sabina. The cardinalitial titles are as follows: S. Lorenzo in Lucina, S. Agnese fuori le mura, S. Agostino, S. Anastasia, SS. Andrea e Gregorio al Monte Celio, SS. XII Apostoli, S. Balbina, S. Bartolommeo all'Isola, S. Bernardo alle Terme, SS. Bonifacio ed Allessio, S. Calisto, S. Cæcilia, S. Clemente, S. Crisogono, S. Croce in Gerusalemme, S. Eusebio, S. Giovanni a Porta Latina, SS. Giovanni e Paolo, S. Girolamo degli Schiavoni, S. Lorenzo in Damaso, S. Lorenzo in Panisperna, SS. Marcellino e Pietro, S. Marcello, S. Marco, S. Maria degli Angeli, S. Maria della Pace, S. Maria della Scala, S. Maria della Vittoria, S. Maria del Popolo, S. Maria in Araceli, S. Maria in Cosmedin, S. Maria in Transpontina, S. Maria in Trastevere, S. Maria in Via, S. Maria sopra Minerva, S. Maria Nuova e S. Francesca Romana, SS. Nereo ed Achilleo, S. Onofrio, S. Pancrazio, S. Pietro in Montorio, S. Pietro in Vincoli, S. Prassede, S. Prisca, S. Pudenziana, SS. Quattro Coronati, SS. Quirico e Giulítta, S. Sabina, SS. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti, S. Silvestro in Capite, S. Sisto, S. Stefano al Monte Celio, S. Susanna, S. Tommaso in Parione, SS. Trinità al Monte Pincio, S. Vitale, SS. Gervasio e Protasio. The cardinalitial deaconries are: S. Maria in Via Lata, S. Adriano al Foro Romano, S. Agata alla Suburra, S. Angelo in Pescheria, S. Cesareo in Palatio, SS. Cosma e Damiano, S. Eustachio, S. Giorgio in Velabro, S. Maria ad Martyres, S. Maria in Aquiro, S. Maria in Cosmedin, S. Maria in Dominica, S. Maria in Portico, S. Nicola in Carcere Tulliano, SS. Vito, Modesto e Crescenzio. There are, therefore, in all, seventy-five churches (6 + 53 + 16) disposable for the three orders of cardinals. And since, as a rule, the cardinals number less than seventy, there are usually several churches without any cardinal. (Cf. P. M. Baumgarten, "Der Papst, die Regierung und die Verwaltung der heiligen Kirche in Rom", Munich, 1905, 186 sq., following the data of the "Gerarchia Cattolica", Rome, 1904.)


The cardinals were, therefore, from a very early period, assistants of the pope in his liturgical functions, in the care of the poor, the administration of papal finances and possessions, and the synodal disposition of important matters. They took on a very much greater importance, however, after the decree of Nicholas II (1059), "In nomine Domini", regulating papal elections . In accordance with this document the election of the pope and the government of the Church, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, fell more and more into their hands; they passed to them exclusively after the Decretal of Alexander III, "Licet de vitandâ", at the third Lateran Council (1179). The increasing insignificance of the "regionary" and "palatine" clergy, from the middle of the twelfth century, coupled with the disappearance of the judices palatini, tended to enlarge the share of the cardinals in the administration of papal justice and finances, also of the fiefs of the Holy See and of the States of the Church. We may add to this that after the cessation of papal journeys to the different nations of Christendom and of the Roman synods under papal presidency, the cardinals remained almost the only counsellors and legates of the popes. Henceforth their functions were equivalent to those of the "permanent synod " and the syncelli at Constantinople (Sägmüller, "Die Tätigkeit und Stellung der Kardinäle bis Papst Bonifaz VIII", Freiburg, 1896, 16 sqq., 208 sqq.; S. Keller, "Die sieben römischen Pfalzrichter im byzantinischen Zeitalter", Stuttgart, 1904).

The place and the occasion of this manifold activity of the cardinals was the consistory, i.e. the reunion of the cardinals and the pope. In it were regularly treated questions of faith and important disciplinary matters, e.g. dogmatic decisions, canonizations, approbations of rules of new orders, affairs of the Inquisition and the universities, indulgences for the Universal Church, modifications of the rules for papal elections , the convocation of general councils, also the nomination and mission of Apostolic legates and vicars. Moreover, in the consistory were treated all matters concerning dioceses and bishops, the so-called causæ majores par excellence, among them the creation, transfer, division, reunion, and suppression of dioceses, the nomination and confirmation of bishops, also their transfer, resignation, cession, suspension, deposition, and degradation. It was in the consistory that were granted to monasteries the numerous privileges by which they were withdrawn from episcopal, and made subject to papal, jurisdiction ; there also took place frequently the confirmation of the abbots and abbesses elected in such exempt monasteries. Before the consistory, moreover, were treated the important questions that arose concerning the properties of the Roman Church ( bona ecclesiæ romanæ ), the papal fiefs, the Crusades, and such grave political matters as the settlement of disputed royal elections, the approbation of newly-elected kings, and the deposition of princes. In the meetings of the consistory, which in the Middle Ages were frequently held weekly, the cardinals also assisted the pope in the disposition of an overwhelming mass of lawsuits. Finally, the cardinals were put in charge of several of the great offices of the Church : in the Chancery a cardinal-chancellor or rather vice-chancellor, in the administration of the papal revenues a cardinal-camerarius, in the conduct of the penitentiaria a cardinal-penitentiary. The cardinals were also grand-inquisitors, likewise the "rectors" in the States of the Church. Others were sent abroad as cardinal legates ; others again acted as cardinal protectors of nations and religious orders (Sägmüller, Die Tätigkeit und Stellung der Kardinäle, 46 sqq.).

Given the position of the pope and his intimate relations both to the individual cardinals and to such a close corporation as the college itself, at papal functions, in papal elections, in synods, in the consistory, in the conduct of diplomatic negotiations, it is easy to understand how all cardinals, including cardinal-priests and cardinal-deacons came to outrank bishops and archbishops, and after the fourteenth century even patriarchs, just as at Constantinople the syncelli eventually outranked bishops and archbishops. This pre-eminence, however, was a matter of slow and uneven development. The cardinal-bishops were the first to outrank other bishops, then archbishops, and finally patriarchs. But as the cardinals formed a college, and the collegiate rights were equally shared by all, the cardinal-priests and cardinal-deacons claimed the same rank as the cardinal-bishops, while the latter were quite willing to see their colleagues placed on their own higher plane. It was occasionally maintained in the Middle Ages that the cardinals were no less successors of the Apostles than the bishops, and that their authority was of Divine origin. For argument appeal was made to the seventy elders of Moses and to Deuteronomy, xvii, 8 sqq., and to other texts. Leo X declared in the Bull "Supernæ" of 5 May, 1514, that the cardinals in a body should come immediately after the pope and should precede all others in the church (Bullar. Rom., V, 604 sqq.). The superior rank of the cardinals was clearly indicated when, after the time of Alexander III, bishops and even archbishops became cardinal-priests, and even (though less frequently) cardinal-deacons (Sägmüller, Die Tätigkeit und Stellung der Kardinäle, 193 sqq.). The cardinals were on an equality with emperors and kings, whom they addressed as "brothers", e.g. the cardinal legate Roland at the Diet of Besançon in 1157. It was only natural, therefore, that in the end the name cardinal, which until late in the Middle Ages was borne by the principal ecclesiastics of the more important churches, should be reserved for the Roman cardinals. Pius V, it is said, issued a decree to this effect 17 Feb., 1567. There were never any "cardinals by birth" ( cardinales nati ), i.e., no other office necessarily implied elevation to the dignity of cardinal.


In the Middle Ages the cardinals attempted more than once to secure over the pope the same pre-eminence which they had secured in a permanent way over the episcopate, i.e., they sought to change the monarchical form of government into an aristocracy. What tended to bring about this result was the fact that in all important matters the popes were accustomed not to act without the counsel or the consent of the cardinals ( de fratrum nostrorum consilio, de fr. n. consensu ), or declared that they could not act otherwise. Consequently, the conclusion was often drawn by canonists, or by the enemies of the popes, that they were obliged to givern in this manner. Moreover, this was inferred from the current concent of corporations. It was applied to both pope and cardinals as well as to the bishop and his chapter; to the Ecclesia Romana as well as to any other cathedral church. Hence, during the papal conclaves, which often lasted a long time, the cardinals sought occasionally to bind the new pope by "election-capitulations" (see C APITULATIONS ), after the obligations imposed on new bishops by their chapters; prevented the appointment of new cardinals; allied themselves (at least individually) with the civil power against the pope ; maintained that the pope could not abdicate without their consent ; or even that they could depose him, at least that they could convoke a council for that purpose, as in fact they did convoke the Council of Pisa in 1409 to put an end to the Western Schism. The Council of Basle decreed that it was the duty of the cardinals, first individually and then as a college, to reprove any pope forgetful of his duty, or acting in a way that no longer corresponded to his exalted position ( Hardouin Acta Conc., VIII, 1208). The first "election-capitulations" were drawn up in the conclave of 1352 and were often repeated, especially during the Western Schism , when the cardinal electors were wont to bind the future pope to do all that was possible for the extinction of the schism. Innocent XII finally forbade all such previous agreements by the Constitution "Ecclesiæ Catholicæ" of 22 Sept., 1695. In face of such an attitude on the part of the cardinals, some popes were very cautious and conciliatory and might be classed as "parliamentary popes ", e.g. Clement IV ; others, like Boniface VIII, resisted, and rightly, with great earnestness. [Cf. Sägmüller, "Zur Geschichte des Kardinalats. Ein Traktat des Bischofs von Feltre und Treviso, Teodoro de' Lelli, über das Verhältniss von Primat und Kardinalat" (Rome, 1893); Idem, "Die Tätigkeit und Stellung der Kardinäle", 215 sqq.; M. Souchon, "Die Papstwahlen von Bonifaz VIII bis Urban VI, und die Entstehung des Schismas 1378" (Brunswick, 1888); Idem, "Die Papstwahlen in der Zeit des grossen Schismas" (ibid., 1898); Wenck, "Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen" (1900), 139 sqq; Sägmüller, "Zur Tätigkeit und Stellung der Kardinäle bis Bonifaz VIII", "Die oligarchischen Tendenzen der Kardinalkollege bis Bonifaz VIII", "Zur Tätigkeit und Stellung der Kardinäle bis Papst Bonifaz VIII" in "Tübingen theolog Quartalschrift", LXXX (1898), 596 sqq., LXXXIII (1901), 45 sqq., LXXXVIII (1906), 595 sqq.; also N. Valois, "La France et le grand schisme d'Occident" (Paris, 1902), and J. Haller, "Papsttum und Kirchenreform" (Berlin, 1903 sqq.).]


In the nomination of cardinals the pope has always been, and is still, free. In the medieval period , according to the detailed account given by Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi , in his "Ordo Romanus XIV" (c. cxvi, sq.), a work of the early part of the fourteenth century, the pope was wont to ask the cardinals for their opinions as to the new members of the college, but afterwards decided quite freely (Mabillon, "Museum Italicum", II, 424 sqq.; J. Kästers, "Studien zu Mabillons römischen Ordines", Münster, 1905, 65 sqq.). The above-mentioned "election-capitulations" and the Council of Basle demanded that the nomination of cardinals should be made dependent on the consent of the college ( Hardouin Acta Conc., VIII, 1207). According to the demand of the reform-councils ( Constance, Basle) and the decrees of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXIV, De ref., c. i), there should be in the college representatives of all Christian nations. Sixtus V decreed, in keeping with the wishes of the reform-councils, that, above all, it should contain doctors of theology ( magistri theologiæ ), and that there should be in the college at least four theologians from the mendicant orders. According to an ancient concession the wishes of Austria, Spain, and Portugal are as far as possible respected, when there is question of raising to the cardinalate a bishop of one of these nations, known thenceforth as a crown-cardinal. It is customary for the governments of the same nations to contribute at the creation of such a cardinal the incident "taxes" or expenses (2832 scudi, or about $3000). Similarly they are wont to provide for the support of their respective national cardinal protectors. At the Vatican Council the demand was made that in the Sacred College and the Roman Congregations there should be from every nation not only scholarly, but also wise and experienced, men ("Coll. Lacensis", Freiburg, 1890–VIII, 838; Granderath -Kirsch, "Gesch. des vatik. Konzils", ibid., 1903–I, 440; II, 167). The person nominated must possess the qualifications of a bishop (Council of Trent, Sess. XXIV, De ref., c. i). He must, therefore, be at least thirty years of age. However, for the cardinal-deacons it suffices to have entered on the twenty-second year; but the new cardinal-deacon must receive deacon's orders within a year, otherwise he loses both passive and active vote (Postquam verus, § 6). In keeping with the provisions for promotion to nobility, illegitimates, even when legitimated by later marriage, are ineligible (ibid., § 12), also (ibid., § 16) the fathers of (living) legitimate children, nephews or cardinals, and (ibid., §§ 17, 18) those who are related to a cardinal in the first or second degree of consanguinity. Of course, the pope can occasionally dispense from these disqualifying conditions (Archiv für kath. Kirchenrecht, LXIX, 168). cardinals takes place in a secret consistory, during which those actually resident in Rome are informed of their nomination. In the afternoon of the same day the newly-created cardinals meet in the pope's apartments, in the antechamber of which the scarlet zucchetta, or skull-cap, is handed to them; thereafter the scarlet biretta is placed by the pope on the head of each. The "red hat" is given in the next public consistory after they have taken the customary oath. At the beginning of the next secret consistory takes place the ceremony known as the "opening of the mouth" ( aperitio oris ), and at the close of the same consistory the "closing of the mouth" ( clausura oris ), symbolizing their duties to keep the secrets of their office and to give wise counsel to the pope. The ring is then given to each, and at the same time the "title" or church by which the new cardinal shall henceforth be known. If the creation of a cardinal takes place outside of Italy, the scarlet zucchetta is sent him by one of the pope's Guardie Nobili (Noble Guards), and the scarlet biretta by a special ablegate. In Austria, Spain, and Portugal the biretta is usually imposed by the sovereign or civil ruler. Occasionally it is conferred by some distinguished prelate especially delegated by the pope. In all such cases the recipient must promise under oath, and under pain of nullity of his nomination, that within a year he will go personally to Rome for the further ceremonies above described, and to receive his "title" (Postquam verus, § 19). Formerly the dignity of cardinal was acquired only after public proclamation and reception of the hat and ring. At present any form of publication suffices (Pius V, 29 Jan., 1571; Greg. XV , "Decet", 12 March, 1621, in "Bullarium Romanum", XII, 663 sq.). Creation of cardinals in petto is therefore without effect, unless there follows publication of the names. A testamentary publication does not suffice. Pius IX announced (15 March, 1875) a creation of cardinals in petto with publication of their names in his testament, but this creation never went into effect. From the reign of Martin V, i.e. from the end of the Western Schism, during which there were many cardinals created by the contending popes, it became customary for the pope to create cardinals without declaring their names ( creati et reservati in pectore ), the Italian equivalent for which is in petto . The publication of the names may, in given circumstances, be made at a much later date. Only, at whatever time such publication takes place, the cardinals so created rank in seniority according to the date of their original announcement as reserved in petto, and precede all those created after that time (P. A. Kirsch, "Die Reservatio in petto bei der Kardinalscreation", in "Archiv. f. kath. Kirchenrecht", LXXXI, 421 sqq.; K. Eubel, "Zur Kardinalsernennung des Dominicus Capranica", in "Röm. Quartalschrift", XVII, 273 sqq.). By virtue of canonical obedience the pope could compel an unwilling person to accept the cardinalitial dignity. (Cf. L. Wahrmund, "Ueber die kirchliche Zulässigkeit der Rekusation der übertragenen Kardinalswürde", in "Archiv f. kath. Kirchenrecht", LXVII, 3 sqq.) The oath taken by the cardinals is quite similar to that taken by bishops. But the cardinal must swear that he will defend conscientiously the papal Bulls concerning non-alienation of the possessions of the Roman Church , nepotism, and papal elections, likewise his own cardinalitial dignity.


It is the duty of the cardinals to assist the pope at the chief liturgical services known as capellæ papales, to distinguish them from the capellæ cardinaliciæ, at which the pope is not present; also to counsel him and aid in the government of the Church (c. 17 in VI to de electione, I, 6; Council of Trent, Sess. XXIV, de ref., c. 1, and Sess. XXV, de ref., c. 1). Hence the cardinals are obliged to reside at Rome and cannot leave the Papal States without permission of the pope. The violation of this law entails grave penalties, even the loss of the cardinalitial dignity (C. 2, X, de clerico non residente, III, 4; Leo X, "Supernæ", 5 May, 1514, § 28, in "Bullar. Rom.", V, 604 sqq.; Innocent X, "Cum juxta", 19 Feb., 1646, in "Bullar. Rom.", XV, 441 sqq.). Similarly, they would lose all the benefices possessed by them (Council of Trent, Sess. XXIV, de ref., c. 17). It is otherwise with foreign bishops created cardinals; they retain their dioceses and are not obliged to reside at Rome. The "suburbicarian" bishops, however, by ancient custom reside at Rome. The share of the cardinals in the government of the Church is exercised partly in the consistories, partly in the curial offices ( Cancellaria, Dataria, Penitentiaria ), in the Roman Congregations, and in various ecclesiastical commissions .

The Consistory. –A papal consistory is the assembly of the cardinals about the pope and recalls the consistorium principis of the Roman Empire ( G. Paleotti , "De sacri consistorii consultationibus", Rome, 1592; Sägmüller, "Die Tätigkeit und Stellung der Kardinäle", 46 sqq., 97 sqq.). Consistories are public ( publica ) or extraordinary, and secret ( secreta ) or ordinary. Semi-public consistories are a combination of a public and a secret consistory. The public consistories are attended not only by the cardinals, but by the bishops, prelates, princes, and ambassadors to the papal court present in Rome. They are called for the purpose of giving the red hat to new cardinals, the solemn conclusion of canonizations, and public audiences to sovereigns and their ambassadors. Much more important are the secret consistories. As already described, it was in them that during the Middle Ages were heard and decided the numberless lawsuits and judicial matters that came before the Apostolic See. Innocent III was wont to hold such a consistory three times a week ("Gesta Innocentii", c. 41, in Migne, P. L., CCXIV, LXXX; A. Luchaire, "Le tribunal d'Innocent III", in "Séances et travaux de l'Acad. des sciences morales et politiques", 1903, 449 sqq.; M. Späthen, "Giraldus Cambrensis und Thomas von Evesham über die von ihnen an der Kurie geführten Prozesse" in "Neues Archiv d. Gesellschaft f. alt. deutsche Geschichtskunde", XXXI, 595 sqq.). With the transfer of their judicial attributes to the great curial offices, especially the Rota and the Roman Congregations, consistories became less frequent. Under Innocent XI (d. 1689) they were held once a month (J. H. Bangen, Die römische Kurie, ihre gegenwärtige Zusammensetzung und ihr Geschäftsgang, Münster, 1854, 75). Secret consistories are now called more rarely, at intervals of several months, and deal with the few subjects or questions actually pending. The following matters are dealt with in them, and call for the counsel of the cardinals: the creation, i.e. nomination proper, of new cardinals; the publication of names reserved in petto; the giving of the cardinalitial insignia with exception of the red hat; the opening and closing of the mouth; the institution of patriarchs, metropolitans, and bishops, and the nomination of such titular bishops as do not belong to the missionary territories; the transfer of bishops ; the granting of the pallium to archbishops ; the creation, division, and union of dioceses ; the institution of abbots whose abbeys are in the gift of the Holy See ; the nomination of the camerlengo and the vice-chancellor of the Roman Church ; the choice and mission of cardinals as legati a latere ; the conclusion of concordats, consultation on differences and conflicts between Church and State. Generally, however, the consistory is called only to inform the cardinals by a so-called allocution of the status of important ecclesiastico-political matters, or to make known the opinion of the pope. These allocutions are meant for the entire Church and are therefore published in ecclesiastical organs.

After the death of the pope ( sede vacante ) the duties of the College of Cardinals differ from those exercised by them during his lifetime ( sede plenâ ). In the earliest times the government of the Roman Church was taken over by the presbyterium or presbyteral clergy, as we know from a letter of that body addressed to St. Cyprian of Carthage after the death of Pope Fabian in 250 (Cypriani, Opp. omnia, ed. G. Hartel, Vienna, 1868, 486; A. Harnack, "Die Briefe des römischen Klerus aus der Zeit der Sedisvacanz im Jahr 250" in "Theolog. Abhandlungen Karl von Weizsäcker gewidmet", Tübingen, 1892, I sqq.). From the sixth century on it was the archipresbyter ( archpriest ), the archidiaconus ( archdeacon ), and the primicerius notariorum (chief notary ) who represented the Apostolic See

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