Am I correct in understanding that there are only 3 levels of cardinals in the college? Bishops, priests and deacons? So Archbishop wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington would actually be a cardinal bishop?

Archbishop Wuerl is a Cardinal-Priest.

It appears that all the Cardinals in the United States are Cardinal-Priests except for Archbishops O’brien, Levada, and Burke who are Cardinal-Deacons.

This information is according to the website

The level of cardinal has nothing to do with the “level” of ordination.

What’s the difference in voting and non-voting? Does the pontiff decide that when someone is elevated?

The college of cardinals is broken down into the same orders as is the priesthood. Cardinal bishops are the highest ranking cardinals. The Holy Father decides who receives what rank a cardinal has.

Remember, you need not be a bishop to be a cardinal. Until the code of 1983, you did not need to be a cleric. There were lay cardinals with all of the rights and duties of any other cardinal. There were also priests who were cardinals, but not bishops: Bl. John Newman and Avery Dulles, SJ come to mind. Today, you must be at least a deacon to be a cardinal. In other words, you must be either a cleric or a religious brother. Laymen can no longer be princess, ending a tradition of almost 1000 years.

There is certain deference reserved for each level of cardinal, even though all of them are princess of the Church.

Their place among the cardinals does not affect their right to vote in a conclave. Any cardinal below the age of 80 can vote in a conclave. Obviously, you need not be a cardinal to be elected pope. You must be male and Catholic.

When the Chair of Peter is empty, such as between popes, the cardinals rule as one body, but within that body, there is a line of seniority. This line has nothing to do with the post that you occupied during the reign of the deceased pope. Those cardinals who are ordinaries, are equal to any other ordinary in ecclessial authority. For example, Cardinal Dolan cannot pull rank on the bishop of Diocese X, because he’s a cardinal. He has no authority in that diocese.

The title of cardinal and the rank within the college of cardinals grant him certain royal rights, not governmental rights. For example, Prince Charles outranks Prince William who outranks Prince Harry, but they’re all Princess and yet none of them have any political authority, only the queen and prime minister have political authority granted to them by tradition and by parliament. It’s the same inside the Church.


Br. JR, FFV :slight_smile:

Cardinal Bishop is granted to certain senior clerics usually as a sign of particular Papal favor or appreciation. There are six Cardinal Bishops of the Latin Church; I believe all Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches are currently considered Cardinal Bishops as well. The senior Cardinal Bishop of the former six is called the Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal Priest is granted usually to diocesan bishops as a sign in line of their duty as the chief shepherd/chief priest of their dioceses.

Cardinal Deacon is granted usually to full-time members and staffers of the Roman Curia, like Prefects of dicasteries and whatnot. This title is also usually that which is granted to all other clerics promoted to cardinalatial status but who do not fall into the above categories. The senior Cardinal Deacon is called the Cardinal Protodeacon.

In most cases, the differences between these are inconsequential from our point of view. However, during times like consistories and most especially conclave, functional differences do exist. It probably wouldn’t also be too hard to imagine that there are different protocol for each, but I am not sure.

There is also a Cardinal Proto-priest, who is the senior most Cardinal Priest.

“proto” simply means “first” and is used in the order of precedence. Each order of Cardinals has a protos.

The distinction of Bishop, Priest and Deacon comes from the Roman church where the original cardinals were Bishops of the suffragan dioceses, priests of Rome or deacons of Rome…That’s the historic reason for the difference. Over time, as things developed, the Cardinal Bishops were simply the senior Cardinals of the Curia (the Papal Court)…and they had to be Bishops. The Cardinal Deacons typically were the junior Cardinals at the Curia or were non-Bishops. (I know we’ve had the discussion before on lay Cardinals, but I’m not sure they really existed…I THINK they had to be in orders - at least minor orders - but need not have been priests or bishops…I can not find an instance of a true laic Cardinal but an willing to be shown one.) Cardinal priests were the largest group and usually was granted to Cardinals outside Rome. A famous non-Bishop and non-priest Cardinal: Cardinal Mazarin of France who was simply a Deacon. Several of the Borgias started as non-priest Cardinals. I believe that Cardinal Wolsey was a Cardinal Deacon although he was outside Rome and was Archbishop of York. So much for too much uniformity! :slight_smile:

If I am not mistaken, all Cardinals were required to be priests by the early 20th century and bishops by about 1960 (absent a dispensation a la Cardinal Dulles). At that same time, about 1960, Eastern Patriarchs in the College were automatically assigned to the Cardinal Bishop ranks. Patriarchs outside the college are not Cardinals.

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