That is: a doctorate in sacred theology?
In 1995, the eminent canon-law professor Ed Peters wrote a piece for Homiletic and Pastoral Review about the need for bishops to set aside some young priests with academic ability, and get them enough advanced study so that they would be prepared in the future, if called, to serve the Church as bishops. At the time, Peters foresaw a “coming bishop crunch” in the U.S.: a lot of bishops reaching retirement age and perhaps a shortage of qualified priests possessing an advanced degree as required by canon law for a bishop.
Canon 378 lists several official requirements for bishops, and one is that he “hold a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred Scripture, theology or canon law, from an institute of higher studies approved by the Apostolic See, or at least be well versed in these disciplines.”
(In case the word “licentiate” is unfamiliar: it’s a graduate degree of lower rank than a doctorate, but it qualifies the holder to teach in a Catholic seminary awarding the bachelor’s in sacred theology.)
I thought about this topic the other day when I saw Sandro Magister’s column; it was a little chatty talk about some of the cardinals attracting interest as possible choices to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
One of the names mentioned happens to be my local bishop, Cardinal O’Malley, and it always surprises me to see him on a list like that, since he doesn’t happen to hold either of those degrees. He does have a PhD, but it’s in Spanish and Portuguese literature. While I trust that he’s well versed in theology, I suspect that the cardinals are probably not going to elect anybody Pope unless he really fulfills the requirements with an earned degree in one of the sacred sciences named; and preferably at the doctoral level.
So I decided to make a little survey of the cardinal electors and see who studied what. For the sake of simplicity, I excluded about half the cardinals from my study population: those over 75 and those under 60 years of age, since I doubt that the cardinals will want to elect them.
Dr. Peters’ web site has a helpful table of the cardinal electors soon to choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, with links to biographies of the 118 current electors. Here’s a summary of who has earned a doctorate, and in what field; the lists are in descending order by age, and names marked with a star appear more than once.
Cardinals age 60-75 as of 2/17/13:
Doctorates in canon law
Monteiro de Castro (PT)
Doctorates in theology
Irosa Savino (VZ)
Cipriani Thorne (PE)*
Cañizares Llovera (ES)
Braz de Aviz (BR)
Doctorates in moral theology
Doctorates in Sacred Scripture
Monsengwo Pasinya (CG)
Doctorates in philosophy
Cipriani Thorne (PE)*
Pell (AU): Church history
O’Malley (US): Spanish literature
Rylko (PL): Social science
Nycz (PL): Catechetics
Dolan (US): Church history
Which cardinals have the most academic accomplishments? Well, it’s a little hard to say, since I’m leaving out the licentiates here. But within this limited survey, the top is Oscar Rodriguez-Maradiaga of Honduras, with doctorates in theology, moral theology, and philosophy, plus a diploma in clinical psychology and conservatory studies in piano! What a guy!
Perhaps the most unusual field one of the cardinals has studied is industrial engineering. Cdl. Cipriani was an engineer working for W.R. Grace before he entered priestly studies.
To summarize: of the 67 cardinals in this age range, 18 have doctorates in canon law; 21 in dogmatic theology; 3 in moral theology, 3 in Scripture.
And 24 do not have that top-level degree in one of the sacred sciences required by the canon — which really surprises me.
And the names of those outliers include some illustrious cardinals whom I would not mind seeing as Pope: George Pell (Australia), Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don (Sri Lanka).
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