Cardinals who are not bishops

When someone who is not a bishop is elected a cardinal, he is ordinarily consecrated a bishop. However, this can be avoided with a dispensations. Why would anyone ask for such a dispensation? Is there some responsibilities that is incurred by episcopal consecration that is not implied by cardinalate? Is there something that such a cardinal cannot do, yet a consecrated bishop can? Ordination is obvious, but anything else.

Cardinals do not have to be bishops. Even once they are elevated to cardinal, they do not have to be subsequently ordained as a bishop.

A cardinal is basically just the designation for those who elect the pope. Nowadays, most are bishops, but not all. Sometimes, a great theologian or some such person will be named cardinal in honor of their contribution to the Church. The late Cardinal Dulles is one example. He was a Jesuit priest and theologian but never a bishop. When the pope makes these honorary appointments, he usually waits until the person is over theage of 80 – and thus ineligible to participate in a papal conclave. This means that, effectively, every cardinal who is of voting age is a bishop in the Church today. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I was going to mention Cardinal Dulles as an example of a Cardinal not being a Bishop, until Joe 5859 beat me to it. :stuck_out_tongue: His Eminence is buried at the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, NY, and when I visit the shrine, I make it a point to go and pay my respects at his grave in the Jesuits’ cemetery.

A more recent example is Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, who for many years led the Sistine Chapel Choir (a/k/a ‘The Sistine Screamers’ :smiley: ). He was made a Cardinal last year, in the same consistory as the great Cardinal Raymond Burke (of course, he was a Bishop in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and an Archbishop in St. Louis, Missouri).

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Blessed John Henry Newman! A perfect example! He became a Cardinal without being a Bishop! There were a few times in his life (I believe during the period when he was Rector of the Catholic University of Ireland) when there was talk of him being made a Bishop. He didn’t want that, because he feared being taken away from his beloved Oratory in Birmingham, England. Luckily, when he was offered the Cardinalate by Pope Leo XIII, Newman was assured that he wouldn’t be taken away from the Oratory should he accept the honor.

I think the only there are three orders of Cardinals. Cardinal Deacons, Cardinal Priests and Cardinal Bishops. Traditionally, Cardinal Deacons and Cardinal Priests aren’t required to be bishops. Pope John XXIII changed this. However, other popes have granted dispensations from the requirement.

The only order that is required to be bishops are the Cardinal Bishops because they are titular heads of the suburbicarian sees. The Eastern Patriarchs are cardinals by virtue of their offices and don’t belong to the three other orders of cardinals (the pope still has to grant them the red hat though).

A Cardinal is not a level of the Priesthood. It is an office, one that has particular status.

Just as a Monseignor is an office, or a special title, but confers no additional powers, being appointed a Cardinal also confers on special powers. The ONLY thing that a Cardinal can do that others can not is, if they are under the age of 80, vote for a new Pontiff.

That’s not right. Cardinals have universal jurisdiction for hearing confessions by law itself. They also have forum privilege, so that they can only be judged by the pope in ecclesiastical matters, unless the pope decides to grant jurisdiction to another tribunal for a single case.

Only Cardinals that are priests or bishops can hear confessions. Cardinal deacons cannot.

Cardinal deacon is somewhat of a misnomer, nowadays almost all cardinals are bishops, and I think without exception at least priests. The term is historic, because formerly the pope was elected only by Roman clergy. This is reflected to the current practice, so that cardinal bishops have titular sees around Rome, cardinal priests are assigned a titular parish in Rome and cardinal deacons are in theory deacons assigned to serve the papal household. Nowadays all this is mostly a curiosity.

Quite correct. Cardinal deacons are not deacons, they’re priests and almost every last one of them are also bishops. “Cardinal deacon” is merely a distinction within the Sacred College.

Unless they are in fact priests or bishops. :stuck_out_tongue:

It sounds stupid, I know, but there have been in the past Cardinal Priests and Cardinal Deacons who were in fact bishops. When the number of positions was restricted and so many were dedicated to Cardinal priests and Cardinal Deacons, some Popes did not hesitate to name bishops to those slots. This goes back to what the Old Medic has pointed out: it is an office, not a sacramental order of the church.

These ranks hearken back to the old synods, common in every diocese of the early church, which assembled to elect their bishops. This was not unique to Rome, although history is very clear that in the first several centuries at least the synod of the Metropolitan See at Rome elected it’s bishop. The College of Cardinals replaces that, but even in that case the College was originally mostly local men of the church at Rome and the surrounding counties.

Likewise, in Milan and other major cities, the bishops were elected and installed locally by synods composed of bishops, priests and deacons. This practice was almost universal, most notably except in the case of mission territories.

Can you please cite a source for this. I’ve checked the usual sources, the Catholic Encyclopedia and Wikipedia, and find nothing that says this.

Code of Canon Law:

Can. 967 §1. In addition to the Roman Pontiff, cardinals have the faculty of hearing the confessions of the Christian faithful everywhere in the world by the law itself. – --

Can. 1405 §1. It is solely the right of the Roman Pontiff himself to judge in the cases mentioned in can. 1401:

2/ cardinals;

What about Cardinal Newman? As I understand it, he was never ordained after his conversion. Did I get my history wrong or is he the exception that proves the rule?

Cardinal Newman was ordained a Catholic priest on May 30, 1847, the feast of the Holy Trinity. However, he was not a bishop.


There are three ranks of cardinal: Cardinal Deacon, Cardinal Priest and Cardinal Bishop. Nowadays they must be at least a priest to be made a cardinal. Canon law says any priest made a cardinal must be ordained a bishop. The Pope can grant exemption from this and there are a few examples. However, the overwhelming majority of cardinals are bishops; a few may be priests (I don’t know if any currently are). Neither deacons nor laymen can be cardinals any more. While it is not a rank in holy orders and is only an honorific title cardinals do have some privileges besides electing the Pope.

In general, cardinal deaconeries are given to senior office holders in the Roman Curia. The title of cardinal priest is usually conferred on residential bishops throughout the world.

Very informative, thanks.

Would you happen to know the canon numbers where some of this is detailed?

c. 350.1

Nowadays they must be at least a priest to be made a cardinal.Canon law says any priest made a cardinal must be ordained a bishop. The Pope can grant exemption from this and there are a few examples.

c. 351.1

However, the overwhelming majority of cardinals are bishops; a few may be priests (I don’t know if any currently are). Neither deacons nor laymen can be cardinals any more.

c. 351.1 - though of course, the Pope could change this if he wished.

A list of all the privileges of cardinals is here

(it seems to be copy-paste-able, so you can also plug it into Google Translate, if you don’t read Italian)

Yes, of course. I was feeling rather lazy when I wrote my last post. There is a section of the Latin Code on cardinals, cc.349-359. Other provisions are scattered throughout the Code, e.g. c.967 which gives cardinals the faculty to hear the confessions of anyone, anywhere. As regards say cardinal deacons being usually the heads of Roman curial dicasteries, I believe that is established practise rather than law.

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