Every once in a while, I look into various facets of the RCC to try to figure you guys out a little more, get a better understanding, etc. My family (up until a couple generations ago) was Roman Catholic, and so I have a love for the Latin tradition. Now, being Orthodox, I'm the closest thing my family has when it comes to returning to it's roots in Rome. I treasure what few religious antiques I've been able to salvage from my family.
Most recently, I've been trying to understand the College of Cardinals. It confuses me. A lot. It's something that developed over many centuries and even recently has undergone changes in the way it functions, so it's been difficult for me to pin down exactly how it did form, what it constitutes and how it has and does today function. I have several questions, which include learning about the history and function of the College, as well as how the Orthodox view it and what would happen if unity were to occur between our churches.
What I'm really trying to wrap my mind around, I guess is really one big question. That is:
What do the "Orders" actually mean?
I understand that Cardinal Bishops have to be bishops (this includes the EC patriarchs) and are traditionally senior Curia officials. A Cardinal Bishop always serves as the Dean of the College. Then, there are Cardinal Priests. These confuse me greatly. Wikipedia gives Eugênio de Araújo Sales as an example of a "Cardinal Priest." He is the longest-serving cardinal in the College. Cardinal priests don't have to be bishops, but some are. How are you a bishop and a presbyter? I understand that "cardinal priest" is a separate title all together from the office to which a given cleric is ordained, but it turns confusing when I read the above link that tells me Cardinal Sales served as archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro for thirty years, but in his photograph he is clearly vested as a priest, yet wearing the red of a cardinal! This is highly confusing to me. If he was a bishop, how is he now a priest? Does that mean he no longer shares in the office of the episcopacy? That can't be right. He must still be a bishop. So...why he is actually vested a priest? This seems to hint that one's ordination and their order in the College is actually connected, but still not. I'm sure you can see my frustration.
This is also seen in the order of Cardinal Deacons. the current Protodeacon of the College is Jean-Louis Tauran. He was ordained a priest in 1969, then made titular archbishop of Thelepte by Pope John Paul II in 1990, but was actually consecrated to the episcopal office a year later! How can one be a "titular bishop" while still only a priest? Then, in 2003, he was made a Cardinal Deacon, which means liturgically he wears a mitre simplex, but also a dalmatic. What? I just don't get all of this conflation of offices. Very confusing to me!
It is confusing. Look to history, as always, to simplify things.
The college is a post schism creation. Like the Vatican's papacy.
Just as the supreme pontiff started out as the Archbishop of Rome, the college too grew out of the episcopal/clerical set up at Rome.
The "cardinal bishops" were the suffragan to the Archbishop, having their see in the suburbs of Rome. They consecrated the new archbishop when elected, but, since the canons forbid the transfer of a bishop (a rule universally broken nowadays, and for some time), they were not eligible to become Archbishop.
The "cardinal priests" were the clergy assigned to the various Churches of Rome: incardated priest meant permanently assigned. They were the chief candiates to succeed as archbishop, and at one point a canon was adopted at Rome (8th century, IIRC) that the new archbishop had to be selected from them. Cardinal also came to mean "important" and hence the cardinal priests were the dean of the important parishes.
The "cardinal deacons" were originally the seven deacons (and, based on Acts, only seven: several of the Fathers note this local custom of Rome) who served with the archbishop, as he went from cathedral to cathedral. Progressively they also became candidates for election as archbishop.
Like anywere else, at the death of the archbishop, the bishops, the priests, and the deacons; the laity; and the civil authorities would gather to elect the successor. Out of this came the conclave.
With the codification of the Ultramontanist claims of the Vatican, this set up was modified. The cardinal bishops first became the sole electors, then including the rest of the clergy (the cardinal priests and cardinal deacons). As the Vatican required bishops of other areas at Rome (increasing less to gather in Synod, as the other Patriarchates, but to receive orders from the center), it assigned them among the cardinal priests at the churches of Rome, their "titular" church in Rome, opposed to their real see back whereever. If they mainted episcopal duties back home, they were assigned among the deacons, to have an official attachment in Rome, but a minimum of duties in Rome. Members of the crowing Curia, the administrative body of the Vatican, also were named to the cardinal deacons so they had a specific status in the system.
So you have two systems opperating on two level: one, the local hiearchy of Archbishop, bishop, priest, deacon (but more or less in name only, which is how a bishop can be a cardinal priest or deacon), and the various hierarchies in the patriarchate of the West being plugged into that system (so bishops can be bishops at home, but of titular rank of priest and deacons, to take part in the election of the bishop of Rome-now the Supreme pontiff-which elsewhere remained a local affair.
My second question has to do with possible unity between the two churches. That is:
What would have to happen with the College of Cardinals given the unity of the churches?
Good question: Irish Melkite corrected me recently, that the "sui juris" primates are often named cardinals, but not ex officio, or something like that. My guess is that the Vatican would want that to become ex officio. We should fight such a suggestion.
Of course, this is really more directed at the Orthodox readers here. Of course, as Orthodox, we would all contend that the Pope of Rome would have to lay aside his claim to universal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church and be recognized instead as the primus-inter-pares of the Church, the most honored among primates, respected amongst his brother bishops and fellow primates of autocephalous churches. This means, of course, that the Pope of Rome would have no binding authority over the bishops outside of his own jurisdiction (and, technically, within it either. Rather, the Holy Synod of the Roman Church would affirm the nomination of a diocese. The Pope could not appoint a diocesan bishop at his own will.
However, the Holy Synod of a church doesn't have to be EVERY bishop of that particular church. The Holy Synod of Russia, for example, does not include every bishop. One of the objections to the Roman Church that sometimes comes from the Orthodox is the College of Cardinals, saying that it would have to be abolished so that every bishop has a "voice." While I could see the need for reform to the College, could it not still suffice as a sort of "Holy Synod" as such? I'm not sure it's something that would have to be thrown out. Thoughts?
The college is a Holy Synod, although it has no ruling powers like an Orthodox one, just advisory. If the Vatican did give up its ultramontanist claims, it would devolve back to the local Holy Synod of Rome. The real change would be the various episcopal conferences becoming autcephalous, autonomous and depend local Holy Synods.