Cardinals who are not Bishops and a Short History on Cardinals

Originally, cardinals were simply clergy “incardinated” within the Diocese of Rome. In the 6th century, the cardinals of Rome included the pastor presbyters of the titular churchs and the seven deacons of Rome so that there were “cardinal priests” and “cardinal deacons.” By the 8th century, the title was extended to the seven bishops of the seven “suburbicarian dioceses” surrounding Rome and thus there were also “cardinal bishops.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 5.15.16 PM

This collection of cardinal deacons, cardinal priests, and the cardinal bishops established the “College of Cardinals” that elected the Bishop of Rome from amongst themselves.

  • Before the 1900s, it was possible for a man in minor orders to become a “lay” cardinal in the order of cardinal deacons.
  • For example, in the 16th century, the Englishman Reginald Pole was a cardinal for 18 years before he was ordained a priest.
  • In 1917 it was established that all cardinals, even cardinal deacons, had to be ordained priests.
  • In 1962, Pope John XXIII ruled that all cardinals must be ordained as bishops unless given a papal dispensation to remain as a priest. One might recall that John Henry Cardinal Newman (d. 1890) was a cardinal while being a priest and not a bishop.
  • For example, His Eminence Albert Cardinal Vanhoye is a cardinal who has not been ordained as a bishop.
  • A cardinal who is not a bishop does wear the pontificalia associated with the bishop (mitre, crozier, zucchetto, pectoral cross, ring).
  • Here’s the amazing thing about cardinals: even if not ordained as a bishop, any cardinal possesses ecclesial and liturgical precedence above a bishop, and even above an Archbishop or a Patriarch!
  • This is why Eastern Patriarchs are now usually made Cardinals.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Download My Book for Free
Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages
Over 15,000 copies downloaded! This is a quick and easy way to learn the basic philosophy and theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Popes of the last 300 years have endorsed St Thomas Aquinas. Learn more through this accessible resources. Download it for free.

Comments Policy: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. If your comment contains a hyperlink to another site, your comment automatically goes into "Comments Purgatory" where it waits for release by way of moderation.