Recently, the Holy Father elevated several men to the rank of Cardinal. This is a privilege and a great responsibility, for being incardinated isn’t just a symbol of honor in the Church. The Cardinal helps lead the Church by advising the pope and electing the papal successor. The selection of cardinals reflects several aspects of a pope. The pope might select one man in tribute to his long devotion to the Church. He might select another because of his specialty in some area of concern for the pope. He might select another because the cardinal-designate is young, his beliefs more in line with the current pope’s beliefs, an advantage if the pope hopes to retain his policies in the Church after his death.
Confused yet? Don’t worry, it was much worse when six-year olds were awarded the red hat. But that’s a history lecture for another day.
Anyway, the new Cardinals named on November 20th have been assigned their membership in different Roman dicasteries (Congregations, Pontifical Councils, etc). Being as that only two of the cardinals are Americans, I will focus on their memberships, rather than examining the importance of all the other cardinals (though I’m sure many of them are important). I’ve met both of them at some point. Wuerl is the Archbishop of the Washington Archdiocese, where I live, and Burke visited and received an honorary doctorate from Christendom College, where I went to school, during the College’s 30th Anniversary celebrations (it was my senior year; I served Mass with Burke). So I have a special connection to both Cardinals, and it is with honor that I present their assignments.
Cardinal Wuerl is now a member of the Congregation for the Clergy and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. This makes a lot of sense, since he is the "go-to" guy for American Anglicans wishing unity with the Church, which is linked with Christian Unity. Likewise, as a member of the Congregation for the Clergy, Wuerl will be involved in educating and forming new priests, a cause that has always been close to his heart (he recently announced a new seminary in the Archdiocese of Washington). Education is a big part of Wuerl’s life, which I’m sure played a part in his assignment to the Council for Christian Unity as well, since sound faith education is key when unifying the Church with our separated brothers and sisters.
Cardinal Burke is now a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, the Congregation for Bishops, and the Pontifical Council for Interpreting Legislative Texts. This is exciting news for those of us with an even slight traditional bend in our liturgical and theological beliefs. Burke has long been a champion of the “Reform of the Reform” endorsed and really driven by Pope Benedict XVI both before and after his elevation to the papacy. As such, his inclusion in the Congregation whose SOLE PURPOSE is the worship of the Church is a welcome one. As a member of the Congregation for Bishops, Burke will have a say in future episcopal appointments. This is key, since the bishops of tomorrow affect the direction in which the Church turns. Burke’s appointment to the Council for Interpreting Legislative Texts goes almost without saying, since he is also Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, making him the highest Canon Law judge after the Pope. Since Legislative Texts are works of Canon Law, Burke rightly belongs as a member of that Council.
We, as faithful Catholics, should pray for our new Cardinals as they step into these new roles, praying that they might stay strong and not abandon their new responsibilities.