Thomas Reese SJ thinks Pope Francis made his first mistake by dropping the red hat on four curia bureaucrats. I think probably not. From the NCR blogger:
True reform must destroy the papal court and turn it into a civil service. As long as officials in the Curia are made archbishops and cardinals, they will act like princes and nobles rather than servants. They will see themselves as a governing elite between the pope and the bishops rather than as staff to the pope and the college of bishops.
Not making curial officials into cardinals would strengthen the hand of the pope because it is much easier to fire someone who is not an archbishop or cardinal. It would also have allowed Francis to give four more red hats to archbishops around the world.
Not making Vatican officials bishops or cardinals would also open up all sorts of positions for laypeople. For example, there is no reason a nuncio or the head of a Vatican office could not be a layperson, even a woman. But under the current system, this would be impossible.
I suspect that in the past ten months, the Holy Father has made some kind of mistake … somewhere.
But I disagree that giving a red hat to a Ratzinger man is a bad idea. Pope Francis has said, or at least strongly hinted, that he wants a variety of people and opinions giving him advice. The practice has served me well in parish ministry for a few decades. I’ve noticed pastors and a few bishops get hamstrung by going with the opposite.
I just don’t think that the college of cardinals is going to be as relevant outside a conclave as it once was. Cardinals can primp and preen within the walls of the Vatican all they want. They aren’t going to be paid any mind. The real work is being done in the trenches, where the church and its servants get dirty and frayed, and mangled a bit.
Given how Americans glide over so much African news, I noticed in todays Vatican information services that the pope accepted the resignation of a missionary bishop in the oil-rich part of southern Chad, a bishop who had served for 24 years and still had a few years to go before retirement.
Back story about the bishop’s expulsion from Chad: