What happens when you don’t get the red hat?

The Dutch blog In Caelo et in Terra has a long, fascinating post on Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the first archbishop of Brussels since 1832 not to be named a cardinal, now that his successor, Jozef De Kesel, has been given the red hat. The phenomenon of the Holy Father overlooking traditionally cardinalatial sees is not unknown in the United States. Archbishops Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Allen Vigneron of Detroit (and, in a bit of ecclesiastical trivia, the Cayman Islands), and José Gomez of Los Angeles have all been passed over in recent consistories. We were particularly surprised that Archbishop Chaput was not named a cardinal in this consistory, given the Holy Father’s first-hand experience of the good work he is doing in Philadelphia. There are numerous justifications advanced for why this or that traditionally cardinalatial see is not graced with the red hat, including declining demographics in some traditionally very Catholic cities. However, we do not think we are saying anything particularly shocking when we observe that the Holy Father has preferred to elevate men to the cardinalate who are broadly in line with his outlook, unlike St. John Paul and Benedict XVI, both of whom seemed to make it a point of pride to raise theological and pastoral opponents to the purple.

At any rate, we won’t spoil the translations of Archbishop Léonard’s comments by quoting them here, instead urging you to visit In Caelo et in Terra to read the whole thing. They are quite interesting, not least because Archbishop Léonard does admit some disappointment in being the first (now only) archbishop of Brussels not to be named a cardinal. Too often, one sees the same anodyne, politically correct comments on controversial subjects. Usually it is like listening to Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots in one of his famously bland, taciturn postgame press conferences. Therefore, it is nice to see—at least we think it is nice to see—a human reaction from a high prelate, even if we wish the reaction had been to a happier subject.