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 Cardinal deacons. 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 Number and distribution. 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 Qualifications. 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