The Dawn... The Notable
Well, either that or -- thanks to Tim Dolan's latest blog-post -- the Times was just looking for something to hit back with.
Indeed, as the regular crowd here was well aware -- repeatedly, and all in advance, no less -- apart from a springtime float in the Italian press, an eighth red hat for the Big Apple never really figured in the cards this time around. Yet while the Grey Lady's mention of "robust" rumor over the prospect doesn't just border on the ridiculous (not to mention linking to a shot of the wrong headgear), as some folks have still taken to ask "What, in the name of scarlet, happened?" it seems a quick explanation is necessary.
True, the history is well-founded: for almost a half-century, it's invariably been the case that the archbishop of New York becomes a cardinal at the first consistory following his appointment; so it was for Cardinals Terence Cooke, John O'Connor and Edward Egan. However -- and here, your "a-ha" moment -- unlike any who preceded him in the Manhattan chair since the Big Apple church's 1808 founding, to use his own phrase, Egan "got out alive." As a result, in retirement the city's ninth archbishop continues to hold the conclave seat that, until now, opened for him and all of his predecessors upon the death in office of the prior incumbent. (Given the red hat -- this one -- all of eight months after moving into 452 Madison, Egan's voting privileges expire on his 80th birthday, 2 April 2012.)
On a related note, while, of course, a Pope can do as he wishes (the last one did, after all, balloon the voting college to 135 members), it's worth noting that -- at least for now -- the de facto rule against two cardinal-electors in a given diocese became considerably more air-tight with yesterday's new class.
Though residential cardinals transferred from archdioceses to posts in the Roman Curia have traditionally been seen as "detached" from their prior assignments, thus enabling the elevation of their successors at home (most recently in Mumbai, Sao Paulo and, indeed, Boston), amid a current slow pace of vacancies in the voting College and the resulting glut of cardinals-in-waiting, not even the new archbishops of Florence nor Spain's primatial see of Toledo -- who, respectively, replaced the Vatican's current Family and Worship Czars -- made this consistory's cut. Keeping with the well-established custom, neither did Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster -- who, with Dolan, likewise has a first-ever scenario in the UK's top church-post of a surviving cardinal-predecessor still of electoral age. And while we're at it, at Benedict's first Red Dawn in February 2006, the same rang true for Paris; even with the retired Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger all of six months from turning 80, then-Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois was passed over until the next intake, getting his red hat in November 2007 (by which time his celebrated predecessor had died).
In a March interview with New York's ABC flagship, Dolan heavily downplayed expectations of his quick elevation, underscoring the one-diocese-one-vote "praxis" of the Holy See. Additionally, B16's three consistories have now confirmed his set practice for naming American cardinals: one from a residential archdiocese on these shores, the other in a senior Rome-based post. (This is especially significant -- until 1998, only one US cleric had ever become a cardinal-designate while already serving at the Vatican; in the dozen years since, however, another four have been so tapped.)
Bottom line: regardless of the metrics one uses to size up the scene, by every credible measure of how these things pan out, here at home, this was Donald Wuerl's moment over and above anyone else's. Yet while the number-crunch of 120 seats has currently made the traffic jam into the world's most exclusive club even worse than usual, for all the buzz over a purported Gotham "delay" that, given unprecedented circumstances, really isn't, a far more possible domestic exception to the 1-under-80 rule lies out West -- where, lest anyone needed reminding, the nation's largest local church is now twice the size of New York's.
Almost two years younger than Dolan, 58 year-old Archbishop José Gomez will take the reins of what is, by far, the most massive diocese American Catholicism has ever known -- the 5 million-member Los Angeles church -- in early 2011. With the transition expected to trigger at Cardinal Roger Mahony's 75th birthday in February, however, keeping the standard protocol would mean that Gomez wouldn't see his Red Dawn until, at the earliest, 2016.
As things stand, it's doubtful he'll be made to wait that long -- for one, by age alone, at least four more conclave seats currently held by Americans (among 23 total) open up between now and late 2012, so the current back-up will effectively vanish. Above all, though, the Vatican's understandable temptation to fast-track the elevation of the nation's first Hispanic cardinal will likely prove too much to resist.
Come Consistory Morning, the US will again have 13 cardinal-electors, six of them chosen by Benedict.
At one point in the twilight of John Paul II's reign, Oceania had five cardinal-electors -- three Australians, New Zealand's Thomas Williams of Wellington and the first ever scarlet-clad Samoan, the Marist Pio Taofinu'u. Just seven years later, the region -- home to over 7 million Catholics, a figure grown by 12% over the last decade -- is down to a lone papal voter... a figure who, earlier this year, came wildly close to departing for Rome.
On the flip side of things, meanwhile, perhaps the most staggering aspect of the eight Italian cardinals-designate named yesterday is that the Boot only lost three of its electors since the last consistory. So while the Italian contingent in a conclave scenario comprised 16 electors going into yesterday's announcement, come next month, the Home Team's representation will increase by half, to 24 (a clean fifth of the maximum 120).
That said, though the Bel Paese's reassertion of dominance largely took the top storyline in the mainstream coverage of yesterday's nods, one significant aspect of the new intake foreseen here some weeks back did, indeed, come to pass: with the elevations of four Africans and an Asian of voting age, B16 nearly doubled his pontificate's total number of electoral slots given to global Catholicism's most prolific growth zones -- what had been a combined six electoral seats between the continents in the pontiff's first two classes now jumps to 11 with the new crop.
Among these, one garnered a particular buzz of reaction among the more historically-minded.... While the archbishop-emeritus of Lusaka, Cardinal-designate Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, becomes the first native Zambian ever to enter the papal "Senate," the elevation of the retiree was especially notable on two fronts: first, at 79, Mazombwe -- who retired in 2006 -- will only be ten months or so off his 80th birthday when he receives the red hat.
Yet even more conspicuously, the Zambian pick is especially conspicuous for who he succeeded in Lusaka -- namely, the (in)famous Emmanuel Milingo, whose colorful ways saw him transferred to Rome in the early 1980s for a reining in which succeeded... until 2001, when he memorably disappeared from the city, emerged to marry a South Korean acupuncturist in a mass wedding of the Rev Sun Myung Moon's Unification church, left "La Sung" to reconcile with John Paul II, then vanish again to reunite with his bride, start a movement for married priests and, after ordaining four married men as bishops without a papal mandate in 2006, incur both excommunication and dismissal from the clerical state alike.
In one of his valid rites, Milingo ordained Mazombwe in 1971... and in the wake of his successor's most recent promotion, some couldn't help but see the move as the last word of a Pope scorned.
(On a side-note, while Mazombwe becomes the first native Zambian cardinal -- and the first elector from the southern African country -- he's not the first Zambian cardinal, outright. That distinction belonged to a Polish-born prelate, the Jesuit Adam Kozlowiecki, who was elevated by John Paul II in 1998 at age 86.
(A survivor of the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, on his release Kozlowiecki undertook missionary work in Zambia, becoming a bishop there in 1956, then the first archbishop of Lusaka before stepping aside in 1969 after his request that a native prelate be appointed -- as it turned out, he was succeeded by Milingo. Either way, the future cardinal remained in the country, returning to the work of a simple missionary priest there until his death at 96 in 2007. He's buried in Lusaka Cathedral.)
All that said, for all the places that ended up on the haler side of the biglietto, at least one always has to lose out. And three consistories into this pontificate, that place has ended up being the home of roughly half the Catholic world: Latin America.
Since his election, B16's named one shy of 50 voting cardinals all-told... just six, however, have hailed from south of the border.
In the same time-span, as many have been elevated from the US alone.
Sure, the trains might run as oddly a good bit of the time... but, folks, with all affection, this ain't Amtrak; please, it's the "Red Hat."
To be sure, that's not to say this scribe's batting 1.000 -- if anything, yesterday's Crow Breakfast ended up lasting well into the night.
PHOTOS: Getty(1); AP(2)