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24 February 2013 | Draft

Social Science and Natural Science Disciplines of Catholic Cardinals

Analysis of the educational background of those engaged in the selection of the new Pope

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Checklist of Catholic cardinals with disciplines


The election of a successor to Pope Benedict XVI in March 2013 raises the question as to the range of "disciplines" which might be called upon (or valued) by the members of the College of Cardinals, namely by those cardinals recognized as being allowed to engage in the selection process.

The following table is an extract from that presented in Wikipedia (Sortable list of living cardinals). For this purpose, the list has been sorted by ascending age in order to enable exclusion of those members of the College of Cardinals who cannot engage in the electoral process of the Papal Conclave.

Pope Paul VI limited the electors to cardinals under 80 years of age. A two-thirds supermajority vote is required to elect the new pope, which also requires acceptance from the person elected. The list should not be considered authoritative because of the complication of actual birthdays in relation to the time of the conclave, the meaning of "under", and the implication of the fact that at the age of 75 Catholic Bishops are required by canon law to submit an offer of resignation to the Pope. It is therefore unclear whether those whose resignation was accepted should be included in the following list. Those over 80 have been excluded from the table. Others eligible to attend are under pressure to decline because of their alleged complicity in the clerical sex abuse scandals, as recently summarized (Lizzy Davies, Difficult path to papal conclave as Rome prepares for new era, The Observer, 23 February 2013).

To the extracted list have been added the two columns on "social science" disciplines and "natural science" disciplines. The procedure used was to access the profiles of each of the cardinals in Wikipedia. The profiles were then scanned for reference to formal academic training. Any "disciplines" found were apportioned to either of the two columns. When this was not fully clear, the discipline was placed in parentheses. A more systematic analysis is however required. Another attempt at such a systemic analysis, focusing on the doctorates of current cardinals is available separately (Does the next Pope have an S.T.D.? Catholic Light, 16 February 2013; Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, Cardinals and their doctorates, or not, Fr. Z's blog, 18 February 2013 by ). This notes that Canon Law #378 lists several official requirements for the bishops (who may be named cardinals), 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.

The implications of the table below are self-evident. The absence of disciplines from the right hand column makes it clear that very few cardinals have any formal training in the "natural sciences", most notably in mathematics. It would be an exaggeration to claim that cardinals were dangerously innumerate -- as this might however be claimed by mathematicians (or by other faiths attaching greater significance to numbers and their symbolism). See below the table for further commentary.

Checklist of Catholic cardinals with disciplines

Checklist of Catholic cardinals with disciplines
Cardinal Country Age "Social science"
"Natural science"
Cleemis, Baselios India 53 theology
Tagle, Luis Antonio Philippines 55 theology
Woelki, Rainer Germany 56 theology, philosophy
Eijk, Willem Jacobus Netherlands 59 medical ethics medicine
Marx, Reinhard Germany 59 theology
Erdő, Péter Hungary 60 theology, canon law
Barbarin, Philippe France 62 (theology)
Koch, Kurt Switzerland 62 theology
Bozanić, Josip Croatia 63 theology
DiNardo, Daniel United States 63 theology, philosophy
Dolan, Timothy Michael United States 63 (theology), philosopjhy
Harvey, James Michael United States 63 canon law
Nycz, Kazimierz Poland 63 theology
Robles Ortega, Francisco Mexico 63 theology, philsoopjy
Scherer, Odilo Pedro Brazil 63 theology
Burke, Raymond Leo United States 64 (theology, philosophy)
Turkson, Peter Kodwo Appiah Ghana 64 theology
Betori, Giuseppe Italy 65 theology
Braz de Aviz, João Brazil 65 pilosophy, theology
Ranjith Patabendige Don, Albert Malcolm Sri Lanka 65 pilosophy, theology
Collins, Thomas Christopher Canada 66 theology
Filoni, Fernando Italy 66 phlosophy, canon law
Alencherry, George India 67 economics, theology, philosophy
Cañizares Llovera, Antonio Spain 67 theology
Puljić, Vinko Bosnia-Herzegovina 67 (theology)
Ryłko, Stanisław Poland 67 moral theology,
social sciences
Sarah, Robert Guinea 67 theology
Gracias, Oswald India 68 philosophy, theology
Njue, John Kenya 68 philosophy, pastoral theology
O'Malley, Seán Patrick United States 68 religious education
Ouellet, Marc Canada 68 philosophy, dogmatic theology
Pengo, Polycarp Tanzania 68 moral theology
Piacenza, Mauro Italy 68 (theology), canon law
Ricard, Jean-Pierre France 68 philosophy, theology
Schönborn, Christoph, OP Austria 68 theology, philosphy, psychology
Cipriani Thorne, Juan Luis Peru 69 theology industrial engineering
Comastri, Angelo Italy 69 sacred theology
Dominik Duka 69 theology
Onaiyekan, John Nigeria 69 religious studies
Sandri, Leonardo Argentina 69 philosophy, theology
Sepe, Crescenzio Italy 69 philosophy, theology, canon law
Tauran, Jean-Louis France 69 philosophy, theology, canon law
Versaldi, Giuseppe Italy 69 psychology, canon law
Bagnasco, Angelo Italy 70 theology, metaphysics
Bertello, Giuseppe Italy 70 pastoral theology, canon law
Calcagno, Domenico Italy 70 dogmatic theology
Ravasi, Gianfranco Italy 70 theology
Rivera Carrera, Norberto Mexico 70 theology, ecclesiology
Rodríguez Maradiaga, Oscar Andrés, SDB Honduras 70 theology, theology, clinical psychologyy, psychotherapy
Salazar Gómez, Rúben Colombia 70 dogmatic theology
Urosa Savino, Jorge Venezuela 70 philosophy, theology
Vingt-Trois, André France 70 moral theology
Napier, Wilfrid Fox South Africa 71 (theology)
Pell, George Australia 71 sacred theology, philosophy
Scola, Angelo Italy 71 theology, philosophy
Zubeir Wako, Gabriel Sudan 71 (theology)
al-Rahi, Bechara Boutros Lebanon 72 (theology)
Vallini, Agostino Italy 72

theology, canon law, civil law

Wuerl, Donald William United States 72 theology, philosopjhy
Brady, Seán Ireland
Northern Ireland
73 sacred theology
Dziwisz, Stanisław Poland 73 philosophy, theology
Grocholewski, Zenon Poland 73 (theology), (canon law)
Monsengwo Pasinya, Laurent Democratic Republic of the Congo 73 philosophy, biblical studies
O'Brien, Edwin Frederick United States 73 (theology)
Tong Hon, John Hong Kong 73 philosophy
Toppo, Telesphore India 73 (theology)
Amato, Angelo, SDB Italy 74 philosophy, theology
Caffarra, Carlo Italy 74 moral theology, medical ethics
Coccopalmerio, Francesco Italy 74 theology, canon law
Monteiro de Castro, Manuel Portugal 74 philosophy, theology
O'Brien, Keith Michael Patrick Scotland 74 theology, education chemistry, science, mathematics
Martínez Sistach, Lluís Spain 75 canon law, civil law
Nicora, Attilio Italy 75 canon law, theology
Romeo, Paolo Italy 75 canon law, theology
Vegliò, Antonio Maria Italy 75 (theology), diplomacy
Antonelli, Ennio Italy 76 sacred theology
Bačkis, Audrys Juozas Lithuania 76 philosophy, canon law
Bergoglio, Jorge Mario Argentina 76 philosophy, psychology, theology [see addendum]
Damasceno Assis, Raymundo Brazil 76 (theology) philosophy of science
Dias, Ivan India 76 (theology), canon law
George, Francis Eugene United States 76 theology
Lehmann, Karl Germany 76 philosophy, theology
López Rodríguez, Nicolas de Jesús Dominican Republic 76 social science
Mahony, Roger Michael United States 76 social work
Okogie, Anthony Olubumni Nigeria 76 sacred theology
Ortega y Alamino, Jaime Lucas Cuba 76 (theology)
Policarpo, José Portugal 76 theology
Rouco Varela, Antonio María Spain 76 theology, canon law, ecclesiastical law
Sarr, Théodore-Adrien Senegal 76 philosophy, theology
Terrazas Sandoval, Julio Bolivia 76 social ministry
Turcotte, Jean-Claude Canada 76 social ministry
Abril y Castelló, Santos Spain 77 social sciences, canon law
Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Andrea Italy 77 theology, philosophy,
canon law
De Paolis, Velasio Italy 77 canon law
Naguib, Antonios Egypt 77 theology
Rigali, Justin Francis United States 77 philosophy, theology
Amigo Vallejo, Carlos, OFM Spain 78 philosophy, psychology
Bertone, Tarcisio Italy 78 moral theology, canon law
Cordes, Paul Josef Germany 78 philosophy (medicine)
Hummes, Cláudio Brazil 78 theology
Lajolo, Giovanni Italy 78 philosophjy, theology, canon law
Monterisi, Francesco Italy 78 diplomacy, theology, canon law
Phạm Minh Mẫn, Jean-Baptiste Viet Nam 78 (theology)
Rode, Franc Slovenia 78 theology, missionology
Sardi, Paolo taly 78 theology, canon law, jurisprudence
Tettamanzi, Dionigi Italy 78 theology
Agnelo, Geraldo Majella Brazil 79 liturgy,
sacramental theology
Danneels, Godfried Belgium 79 philosophy, theology, liturgy
Errázuriz Ossa, Francisco Javier Chile 79 philosophy, theology mathematics
Farina, Raffaele Italy 79 theology
Kasper, Walter Germany 79 dogmatic theology
Meisner, Joachim Germany 79 theology
Poletto, Severino Italy 79 moral theology
Re, Giovanni Battista Italy 79 (theology)
Sandoval Iñiguez, Juan Mexico 79 (theology)
Vela Chiriboga, Raúl Eduardo Ecuador 79 (theology)
Arinze, Francis Nigeria 80 philosophy, sacred theology
Egan, Edward Michael United States 80 philosophy, sacred theology
Lozano Barragán, Javier Mexico 80 theology
Martino, Renato Raffaele taly 80 canon law
Rosales, Gaudencio Philippines 80 (theology) (medicine)
Rubiano Sáenz, Pedro Colombia 80 (theology)
Scheid, Eusébio Oscar Brazil 80 sacred theology, liturgy dogmatic theology
Schwery, Henri Switzerland 80 theology, philosophy mathematics, theoretical physics,
Stafford, James Francis United States 80 sacred theology medicine
Vlk, Miloslav Czech Republic 80 theology archival science

Addendum (following election of Pope Francis in March 2013): Wikipedia reported that he graduated from the technical secondary school Escuelas Técnicas Nã‚â?° 27, Hipólito Yrigoyen with the qualification of chemical technician. According to some sources (not including the Vatican, according to Wikipedia), he earned a master's degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires. This information was also echoed by Hank Campbell (Francis: Pope, Chemist, Science 2.0, 13 March 2013).


Curiously a significant number of cardinals are the product of many-children families. Such considerations reinforce arguments regarding the lack of ability of the Catholic Church to assess the numerical evidence regarding the ever-increasing world population and the ever-diminishing availability of resources: land, food, energy, etc. (Begetting: challenges and responsibilities of overpopulation, 2007). Put bluntly, it would appear that there is an institutionalized inability to count (Institutionalized Shunning of Overpopulation: challenge incommunicability of fundamentally inconvenient truth, 2008).

With regard to the other natural sciences, the evident lack of formal training is however relevant to the separate argument regarding the value of new insights from chemistry and physics into relationships (Bonding with an "other" articulated through the language of molecular bonding, 2012), especially regarding the nature of that bond (Subtler insights into the "chemistry" of the marriage bond, 2012; Ionic marriage versus Covalent marriage?, 2012).

It is curious to note, in the Wikipedia profiles of the cardinal,s that a degree of emphasis is given to the number of natural languages spoken by each. Clearly this capacity is considered significant to the roles cardinals are expected to perform and their capacity to communicate across cultures. However, disciplines may also be considered as languages. It is striking how few disciplines are represented in what amounts to a table of cognitive competence of those from whom guidance in world governance is expected. With theology as a traditional branch of philosophy, it might be stated that in disciplinary terms the College of Cardinals constitutes an essentially monolingual or unilingual culture.

The difficulty in assessing the competence of the cardinals in any discipline suggests that little value is attached to their capacity to function in the interdisciplinary environment presumably necessary to any adequate response to current and future global crises. Any claim that theology is essentially integrative, through being "transdisciplinary" (and primarily focused on the "transcendent"), would then merit careful examination. This apparent lack of capacity is appropriately echoed by the unfruitful outcomes of the various interfaith initiatives undertaken by the Catholic Church -- and the consequence for faith-based conflicts thereby exacerbated around the world.

As separately argued, the fundamental insights of the natural sciences into relationships and order of every form suggest that many theological preoccupations could be fruitfully informed by those languages through the neglected discipline of mathematical theology (Mathematical Theology: future science of confidence in belief, 2011). This might fruitfully enable interdisciplinary, intercultural and interfaith initiatives for the future.

There are surprisingly unexplored correspondences between mathematics and theology, as suggested by the language used in their framing of their most fundamental insights regarding higher degrees of order: transfinite, transcendental, infinite, aleph, and the like (Theories of Correspondences -- and potential equivalences between them in correlative thinking, 2007). The issue is how, through their complementarity, collective insight can be used to elicit more integrative approaches, of requisite credibility, to the strategic challenges of governance in this period. Absent, as yet, is a fruitful mapping of the array of disciplines and their relationship to the array of mathematical insights.

It is however very improbable that appreciation of the perspectives of a wider variety of disciplines will be considered of any relevance in the Papal Conclave (Cardinals seek identikit for new pope, Reuters, 17 February 2013)

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