CARDINAL (Lat. cardinalis), in the Roman Church, the title of the highest dignitaries next to the pope. The cardinals constitute the council or senate of the sovereign pontiff, his auxiliaries in the general government of the Church; it is they who act as administrators of the Church during a vacancy of the Holy See and elect the new pope. Together they constitute a spiritual body called the Sacred College. The dignity of cardinal is not an essential part of the legal constitution of the Church; it is a reflection of and participation in the sovereign dignity of the Head of the Church, by the chief clergy of the Church of Rome. The present position is the result of a long process of evolution, of which there are several interesting survivals.
The name is derived from cardo, hinge; like many other words (the word pope in particular) it was originally of a more general application, before it was reserved exclusively to the members of the Sacred College, and the word is still used adjectivally in the sense of pre-eminent or that on which everything else "hinges." As early as the 6th century we find mentioned, in the letters of St Gregory, cardinal bishops and priests. This expression signifies clergy who are attached to their particular church in a stable relation, as a door is attached to a building by its hinges (see Thomassin, Vetus et nova discipl. vol. 1, lib. ii. cap. 113-115). Moreover, this sense is still preserved in the present day in the expressions incardinatio, excardinatio, which signify the act by which a bishop permanently attaches a foreign cleric to his diocese, or allows one of his own clergy to leave his diocese in order to belong to another. For a long time, too, the superior clergy, and especially the canons of cathedrals or the heads of important churches, were cardinales (see examples in Du Cange, Glossarium, s.v.). Gradually, however, this title was confined by usage to the Roman cardinals, until Pius V., by his constitution of the 15th of February 1568, reserved it to them exclusively.
The grouping of the cardinals into a body called the Sacred College, the College of Cardinals, is connected, in the case at least of cardinal priests, with the ancient presbyterium, which existed in each church from the earliest times. The Sacred College as such was not, however, definitively constituted until the uniting of the three orders of cardinals into a single body, the body which was to elect the pope; and this only took place in the 12th century. Up till that time the elements remained distinct, and there were separate classes: the "Roman" bishops, i.e. bishops of sees near Rome, presbyters of the "titles" (tituli) of Rome, and deacons of the Roman Church. Nowadays, the Sacred College is still composed of three orders or categories: cardinal bishops, cardinal priests, and cardinal deacons. But the process of evolution has not been the same in the case of all these orders.
Cardinal bishops are the bishops of suburbicarian churches, situated in the immediate neighbourhood of Rome. Very early we find them assisting the pope in his ritual functions and in dealing with important business; they formed a kind of permanent synod (cf. the of Constantinople): and they also took the place of the pope in the ceremonies of the liturgy, excepting the most important ones, and especially in the service of the cathedral at Rome, the Lateran. A passage from the life of Stephen II. (a.d. 769), in the Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchesne, i. p. 478), shows clearly that they were seven in number and served for a week in turn: Hic constituit ut omni dominico die a septem Episcopis cardinalibus hebdomadariis, qui in ecclesia Salvatoris (the Lateran) observant, missarum solemnia super altare Beati Petri celebrarentur. They were called "cardinal bishops of the Lateran church," as recorded by St Peter Damian in 1058 (Ep. 1, lib. ii.). Their sees are the same to-day as they were then: Ostia, Porto, Santa Rufina (Sylva Candida), Albano, Sabina, Tusculum (Frascati) and Palestrina. From time immemorial the bishop of Ostia has had the privilege of sacring the pope, and on this ground he enjoys the right of wearing the "pallium"; he is ex officio dean of the suburbicarian bishops, and consequently dean of the Sacred College. His episcopal see having been in ruins for a long time, that of Velletri has been joined to it. The second rank belongs to the bishop of Porto, who is ex officio vice-dean of the Sacred College; his episcopal see being also in ruins Calixtus II. added to it that of Santa Rufina, thus reducing the number of suburbicarian bishoprics and cardinal bishops to six; this number was adhered to by Sixtus V., and has not varied since.
The second order of cardinals is that of the cardinal priests. It represents and is a continuation of the ancient presbyterium; but in Rome the process of evolution was different from that in the other episcopal towns. In the latter, the division into parishes was but slowly accomplished; there is no authority for their existence before the year 1000; the bishop with the higher clergy, now developed into the chapter, were in residence at the cathedral, which formed, as it were, the one parish in the town. At Rome, on the contrary (and doubtless at Alexandria), certain churches, to which were attached certain districts, were at an early date entrusted to one or more priests. These churches, in which the liturgy was celebrated, or certain sacraments administered, were called tituli (titles). According to the Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchesne, i. pp. 122, 126, 164), the titles of Rome, numbering twenty-five, were already established as early as the 1st century; this seems hardly probable, but it was certainly the case in the 5th century. The priest serving one of these churches was the priest of that title, and, similarly, the church which he served was that priest's title. When several priests were attached to the same church, only the first, or principal one, had the title; he alone was the presbyter cardinalis. This practice explains how it is that the Roman presbyterium did not give rise to a cathedral chapter, but to cardinal priests, each attached to his title. As the higher clergy of Rome gradually acquired a more important status, the relations between the cardinal priest and the church of which he bore the title became more and more nominal; but they have never entirely ceased. Even to-day every cardinal priest has his title, a church in Rome of which he is the spiritual head, and the name of which appears in his official signature, e.g. "Herbertus tituli sanctorum Andreae et Gregorii sanctae romanae ecclesiae presbyter cardinalis Vaughan." When the attachment of the cardinal priest to his title had become no more than a tradition, the number of cardinal titles, which in the 11th century had reached twenty-eight, was increased according to need, and it was held an honour for a church to be made titulary. The last general rearrangement of the titular churches was begun by Clement VIII. and completed by Paul V.; Leo XIII. made a title of the church of San Vitale. To-day, according to the Gerarchia Pontificia the cardinal titles number fifty-three; since the highest possible number of cardinal priests is fifty, and this number is never reached, it follows that there are always a certain number of vacant titles. The first title is that of San Lorenzo in Lucina, and the cardinal priest of the oldest standing takes the name of "first priest," protopresbyter.
The third order of cardinals is that of the cardinal deacons. For a long time the Roman Church, faithful to the example of the primitive church at Jerusalem (Acts vi.), had only seven deacons. Their special function was the administration of her temporal property, and particularly works of charity. Between them were divided at an early date the fourteen districts (regiones) of Rome, grouped two by two so as to constitute the seven ecclesiastical districts. Now the charitable works were carried on in establishments called diaconiae, adjoining churches which were specially appropriated to each diaconia. The connexion between the names (diaconus) and (diaconia) and the presence of a church in connexion with each diaconia gradually established for the deacons a position analogous to that of priests. In the 8th century Pope Adrian found sixteen diaconiae and founded two others (Lib. Pont. ed. Duchesne, i. p. 509); in the 12th century the cardinal deacons, who then numbered eighteen, were no longer distinguished by an ecclesiastical district, as they had formerly been, but by the name of the church connected with some diaconia (loc. cit. p. 364). By the time of Sixtus V. the connexion between a cardinal deacon and his diaconia was merely nominal. Sixtus reduced the number of cardinal deacons to fourteen; and this is still the number to-day. Except that his church is called a diaconia, and not a title, the cardinal deacon is in this respect assimilated to the cardinal priest; but he does not mention his diaconia in his official signature: e.g. "Joannes Henricus diaconus cardinalis Newman." There are at present sixteen diaconiae, the chief being that of Santa Maria in Via lata; the cardinal deacon of longest standing takes the name of "first deacon," protodiaconus.
Cardinals can pass from one order, title or see to another, by a process of "option." When a suburbicarian see falls vacant, the cardinals resident at Rome have the right of "opting" for it in order of rank, - that is to say, of claiming it in consistory and receiving their promotion to it. In the same way cardinal deacons can pass after ten years to the order of priests, while retaining after their passage the rank in the Sacred College given them by the date of their promotion.
With the exception of the classes resulting from the order to which they belong, there are no distinctions between the rights of the various cardinals. As to the ordination obligatory upon them, it is that indicated in their title; cardinal bishops must naturally be bishops; for cardinal priests it is enough to have received the priesthood, though many of them are actually bishops; similarly, it is enough for cardinal deacons to have received the diaconate, though most of them are priests; cases have occurred, however, even in quite recent times, of cardinals who have only received the diaconate, e.g. Cardinal Mertel.
There is one cardinal chosen by the pope from among the Sacred College to whom is entrusted the administration of the common property; this is the cardinal camerlengo or chamberlain (camerarius). His office is an important one, for during the vacancy of the Holy See it is he who exercises all external authority, especially that connected with the Conclave.
The number of the cardinals reaches a total of 70: six cardinal bishops, fifty cardinal priests and fourteen cardinal deacons. This number was definitively fixed by Sixtus V. (constit. Postquam, 5th December 1586); but the Sacred College never reaches its full number, and there are always ten or so "vacant hats," as the saying goes. Though the rule laid down by Sixtus V. has not been modified since, before him the number of cardinals was far from being constant. For a long time it varied in the neighbourhood of twenty; in 1331 John XXII. said that there were twenty cardinals; in 1378 they were reckoned at 23. Their number increased during the Great Schism because there were several rival obediences. The councils of Constance and Basel reduced the number of cardinals to 24; but it did not rest at that for long, and in the 16th century was more than doubled. In 1517 Leo X., in order to introduce strong supporters of himself into the Sacred College, created 31 cardinals at the same time. The highest number was reached under Pius IV., when the cardinals numbered as many as 76.
The composition of the Sacred College is subject to no definite law; but the necessity for giving a first representation to different interests, especially in view of the election of the popes, has for a long time past thrown open the Sacred College to representatives of the episcopate of the Catholic nations. From the 11th century onwards are to be found cases in which the pope summoned to its ranks persons who did not belong to the Roman Church, particularly abbots, who were not even required to give up the direction of their monasteries. In the following century occur a few cases of bishops being created cardinals without having to leave their see, and of cardinals upon whom were conferred foreign bishoprics (cf. Thomassin, loc. cit. cap. 114, n. 9). Of the cardinals created by the popes of Avignon the majority were French, and in 1331 John XXII. remarks that 17 cardinals were French out of the 20 who then existed. The councils of Constance and Basel forbade that more than a third of the cardinals should belong to the same country. After the return of the popes to Rome and after the Great Schism, the ancient customs were soon resumed; the cardinals were for the most part Italians, the entire number of cardinals' hats conferred on the other Catholic nations only amounting to a minority. The non-Italian cardinals, with rare exceptions, are not resident in Rome; together with the rank of cardinal they receive a dispensation from residing in curia; they are none the less, as cardinals, priests or deacons of the Roman Church.
The reform of the College of Cardinals inaugurated by the councils of Constance and Basel, though without much immediate success, was not only concerned with the number and nationality of the cardinals; it also dealt with conditions of age, learning and other qualifications: men of the most honourable character, aged not less than thirty, were to be chosen; at least a third were to be chosen from among the graduates of the universities; persons of royal blood and princes were not to be admitted in too great numbers, and lastly, relatives of the pope were to be set aside. Moreover, in order to secure the effectiveness of these reforms, selection of the new cardinals was to be made by the votes of the members of the Sacred College given in writing. This mode of control was perhaps excessive, and the reform consequently remained ineffective. Up to the middle of the 16th century there were still instances of unfortunate and even scandalous appointments to the cardinalate of very young men, of relatives or favourites of the popes and of men whose qualifications were by no means ecclesiastical. In the Sacred College as elsewhere nepotism and an exaggerated estimate of temporal interests were rife. At last a real reform was effected. The council of Trent (sess. xxiv. cap. i. de reform.) requires for cardinals all the qualifications prescribed by law for bishops. Sixtus V. defined these still more clearly, and his regulations are still in force: a cardinal must, in the year of his promotion, be of the canonical age required for his reception into the order demanded by his rank. i.e. 22 for the diaconate, 23 for the priesthood and 30 for the episcopate, and if not already ordained he must take orders in the year of his appointment. Men of illegitimate birth are excluded, as well as near relatives of the pope (with one exception) and of the cardinals; the personal qualities to be most sought for are learning, holiness and an honourable life. All these recommendations have been, on the whole, well observed, and are so better than ever in the present day. We may add that the religious orders have had a certain number of representatives, four, at least, in the Sacred College, since Sixtus V., several of whom, as we know, became popes. As to the cardinals' hats granted at the request of the heads of Catholic states, they are subject to negotiations analogous to those concerning nominations to the episcopate, though entailing no concordatory agreement, strictly speaking, on the part of the popes.
The creation of cardinals (to use the official term) is in fact nowadays the function of the pope alone. It is accomplished by the publication of the persons chosen by the pope in secret consistory (q.v.). No other formality is essential; and the provision of Eugenius IV., which required the reception of the insignia of the cardinalate for the promotion to be valid, was abrogated before long, and definitely annulled by the declaration of Pius V. of the 26th of January 1571. Similarly neither the consent nor the vote of the Sacred College is required. It is true that a Roman Ceremoniale of 1338 (Thomassin, loc. cit. cap. 114, n. 12) still enjoins upon the pope to consult the Sacred College, on the Wednesdays during Ember days, as to whether it is necessary to nominate new cardinals, and if so, how many; but this is only a survival of the ritual of the ancient form of ordination. The injunctions of the councils of Constance and Basel as to the written vote of the cardinals became before very long a dead letter, but there still remains a relic of them. In the consistory, when the pope has nominated those whom he desires to raise to the purple, he puts to the cardinals present the question: "Quid vobis videtur?" The cardinals bend the head as a sign of their consent, and the pope then continues: "Itaque, auctoritate omnipotentis Dei, sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, et Nostra, creamus et publicamus sanctae romanae Ecclesiae cardinales N. et N., etc."
The new dignitary, who has been warned of his nomination several weeks in advance by "biglietto" (note) from the office of the secretary of state, is then officially informed of it by a ceremoniarius of the pope; he at once waits upon the pope, to whom he is presented by one of the cardinals. The pope first invests him with the rochet and red biretta, but there is no formal ceremony. The conferring of the cardinal's red hat takes place a few days later in a public consistory; while placing the hat on his head the pope pronounces the following words: "Ad laudem omnipotentis Dei et Sanctae Sedis ornamentum, accipe galerum rubrum, insigne singularis dignitatis cardinalatus, per quod designatur quod usque ad mortem et sanguinis effusionem inclusive pro exaltatione sanctae fidei, pace et quiete populi christiani, augmento et statu sacrosanctae romanae Ecclesiae, te intrepidum exhibere debeas, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti." While pronouncing the last words the pope makes the sign of the cross three times over the new cardinal. The public consistory is immediately followed by a secret consistory, to accomplish the last ceremonies. The pope begins by closing the mouth of the new cardinal, who is led before him, as a symbol of the discretion he should observe; after this he bestows on him the cardinal's ring, assigns him a title or diaconia; and finally, after going through the formality of consulting the Sacred College, finishes with the symbolic ceremony of the opening of the mouth, signifying the right and duty of the new cardinal to express his opinion and vote in the matters which it will fall to him to consider.
When the cardinals are resident abroad and appointed at the request of the heads of their state, a member of the Noble Guard is sent on the same day that the consistory is held to take the new dignitary the cardinal's "calotte"; after a few days the red biretta is brought to him by a Roman prelate, with the powers of an ablegatus; the biretta is conferred on him with great pomp by the head of the state. But the conferring of the red hat always takes place at the hands of the pope in a public consistory.
Cardinals "in petto."
Sometimes, after nominating the cardinals, the pope adds that he also appoints a certain number of others, whose names he does not divulge, but reserves the right of publishing at a later date. These cardinals, whose names he conceals "in his breast," are for that reason called cardinals in pectore (Ital. in petto). This practice seems to go back to Martin V., who may have had recourse to this expedient in order to avoid the necessity of soliciting the votes of the cardinals; but for a long time past the popes have only resorted to it for quite other reasons. If the pope dies before making known the cardinals in petto, the promotion is not valid; if he publishes them, the cardinals take rank from the day on which they were reserved in pectore, the promotion acting retrospectively, even in the matter of emoluments. This method has sometimes been used by the popes to ensure to certain prelates who had merit, but were poor, the means of paying the expenses of their promotion. In March 1875 Pius IX. announced the nomination of several cardinals in petto, whose names would be given in his will. It was pointed out to the pope that this posthumous publication would not be a pontifical act, and ran the risk of being contested, or even declared invalid; Pius IX. gave way before this reasoning, and published the names in a subsequent consistory (Sept. 17).
The dignity of the cardinals is a participation in that of the sovereign pontiff, and as such places them above all the other ecclesiastical dignitaries and prelates. This rank, however, has not always been assigned to them; but was attributed to the cardinal bishops before it was to the rest. Their common prerogative was definitively established when they became the sole electors of the pope, at a period when the papacy, under pontiffs like Innocent III., shone with its most brilliant lustre. For example, at the council of Lyons in 1245 all the cardinals took precedence of the archbishops and bishops. It was in 1245, or perhaps the year before, that Innocent IV. granted the cardinals the privilege of wearing the red hat; as to the scarlet robe which still forms their costume of ceremony, it was already worn by cardinals performing the functions of legate; and the use was soon extended to all. As to their civil relations, cardinals were assimilated by the Catholic kings to the rank of princes of the blood royal, cardinals being the highest in the Church, after the pope, just as princes of the blood royal are the first in the kingdom after the king. Of the many ecclesiastical privileges enjoyed by the cardinals, we will mention only two: the real, though nowadays restricted, jurisdiction which they exercise over the churches forming their title or diaconia; and the official style of address conferred on them by Urban VIII. (10th of June 1630), of Eminence, Eminentissimo signore.
The most lofty function of the cardinals is the election of the pope (see Conclave). But this function is necessarily intermittent, and they have many others to fulfil sede plena. On those rare occasions on which the pope officiates in person, they carry out, according to their respective orders, their former functions in the ritual. But they are, above all, the assistants of the pope in the administration of the Church; they fill certain permanent offices, such as those of chancellor, penitentiary, etc.; or again, temporary missions, such as that of legate a latere; they have seats in the councils and tribunals which deal with the affairs of the Church, and the Roman congregations of cardinals (see Curia Romana).
Bibliography. - All works on canon law contain a treatise on the cardinals. See particularly, for the history, Thomassin, Vetus et nova discipl., tom. I., lib. ii., cap. 113-115. For history and law, Phillips, Kirchenrecht, vol. vi.; Hinschius, System des kathol. Kirchenrechts, vol. i. p. 312. For the canonical aspect, Ferraris, Prompta bibliotheca, s.v. "Cardinales"; Bouix, De curia romana (Paris, 1859), pp. 5-141; Card. de Luca, Relatio curiae romanae, disc. 5. For details of the ceremonies and costume, Grimaldi, Les Congrégations romaines (Sienna, 1890), p. 99 et seq.; Barbier de Montault, Le Costume et les usages ecclésiastiques (Paris), s.d. For a list of the names of the cardinals, according to their titles, see De Mas-Latrie, Trésor de chronologie, col. 2219-2264; and in the chronological order of their promotion, from St Leo IX. to Benedict XIV., ibid. 1177-1242; also Dictionnaire des cardinaux (Paris, 1856).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)