The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, September 28, 2003  

No, This is Not About Baseball

Pope John Paul II today elevated 31 Catholic archbishops and bishops to the rank of cardinal, including the incoming leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese, Archbishop Justin Rigali.

As the New York Times reports (“Pope Appoints 31 Cardinals to Group That Will Name Successor,” by Frank Bruni), the elevations occurred several months earlier than expected, fueling speculation about the pope’s health and anticipated longevity.

Somewhat surprising: Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley was not on the list, though the Boston archdiocese is usually a cardinalatial see. Intriguingly, the pope elevated one archbishop in pectore, i.e., “close to the heart,” and who thus not named publicly, a move that Bruni notes “usually signals that the man is in a country where Roman Catholics are oppressed.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (“Pope Names Rigali a Cardinal,” by David O’Reilly) there is speculation the in pectore appointment was that of the pope’s longtime secretary, Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.

The pope and his advisors clearly made the move to enhance his already strong legacy on the Catholic Church. According to Bruni, Pope John Paul II has elevated 104 of the 109 cardinals that are eligible to vote for his successor. It doesn’t take much of a leap to assume that we’re in for more of the same on matters of doctrine and dogma upon John Paul II’s passing.

What may be more interesting, then, is to see whether the next pope can reign in some of the Vatican’s loose cannons, including Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, and Opus Dei, that many assert have taken advantage of Pope John Paul II’s deteriorating health and vigor to pursue their hard-line agenda. Their profiles may be reduced -- a welcome change no doubt -- though it may turn out those cannons aren’t so loose after all.

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