COLLEGE OF CARDINALS 391
is not conceivable that the purple would actually be conferred upon someone not a priest. The office which the simonists once found a most lucrative source of income has long since once more become a serious office imposing the gravest responsibilities; and to it only worthy, proved servants of the Church who have shown their mettle in other difficult missions can attain. The Council of Trent ordered that only the most carefully selected men could be chosen, and this selection is now based also on conduct about reproach. Tales of loose conduct which writers in these very rimes would have one believe, arc slanders. Today the Roman wheat is carefully fanned. Every susceptibility to attack is scrupulously reckoned with in advance. Even the possibility of family control is eliminated by the Tridentine requirement that no near relative of a living cardinal can receive the purple. There is no definite age limitation, but it is obvious that the degree of achievement and experience demanded cannot be attained in youth*
The number of cardinals has varied considerably. Shortly after 1 100 there were more than fifty, and then the number declined until at times it was seven and eight. In Avignon there were twenty car- dinals on the average; and the Councils of Constance and Basel de- creed that there should be "not more than twenty-four." But in 1517, Leo X appointed thirty-one at one time. For some years previous mercenary members of the College had stubbornly fought against in- creasing the number, since income and power would then be distrib- uted among too many hands and heads. But the Pope needed crea- tures of his own to offset the older cardinals a circumstance which lent a certain justification to the nepotism he practiced. As the number rose, the power of each cardinal decreased, and it is possible that the crafty Sixtus V ordained that there should be as many as seventy cardinalcies for other reasons than his expressed wish to imi- tate the mosaic Council of Elders, which comprised seventy old men. This is still the number today: there are six cardinal-bishops, fifty cardinal-priests, and fourteen cardinal-deacons. Nevertheless not all of these are actually appointed, since some positions in the second and third rank are kept open so that worthy and desirable men need not wait until death decides to place seats at their disposal* Rising from one rank to another proceeds on the basis of election.