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It used to be the custom for the new cardinal, whose mouth had been shut, to leave the hall of the Consistory while the Pope consulted the Sacred College as to the opening of the mouth of their new colleague. Thereupon the novice came in and had his mouth opened. But this form has been disused of late times : an indication, even in such little matters of mere formality, of the general tendency to erect the pontifical power into a pure and absolute despotism, uncontrolled even by the semblance of any consultative authority in the College. At a still more remote period, the mouths of new cardinals were shut in one Consistory, and were not opened till the following meeting of the College.
Pope Eugenius IV. (ob. 1447) decreed that if any cardinal had not had his mouth opened at the time of the Pope's death, he could not take part in the following Conclave. But there are signs that there was previously some idea that such ought to be the case. For it is on record that the English Cardinal Winterburn was in this plight at the death of Benedict XI., in 1304, and that his mouth was opened by the Dean of the Sacred College, authorised to do so by a vote of the entire College. Pius V., however, by a decretal dated 26th January, 1571, repealed the decision of Eugenius.
After the opening of the mouth, the Pope places on the new cardinal's finger the cardinalitial ring of gold, with a sapphire, and at the same time assigns to each the church from which he is to take his title. In early times the ring of a deceased cardinal was given to the newly-created one. Nevertheless, there exist contemporaneous notices of cardinals disposing of the ring
in question by will; so that it should seem that also in this respect the institution was, in the fourteenth century, in a state of fluidity. In modern times it has been the custom for each new cardinal to pay for his ring five hundred crowns to the College de Propaganda Fide, which till the money was paid did not despatch the brief (which it is the function of the College to do), on which depends the commencement of drawing the cardinal's allowance.
A few words may be added as to the age at which persons can be, or have been, made cardinals; and it will be seen that, in this respect also, the institution remained in a state of fluidity up to a comparatively recent period. It seems to have been generally understood that the rule was that thirty years of age should be requisite to the cardinalate. Yet Sixtus V., in the Bull which professed to regulate the requirements for eligibility to that dignity, decrees that no cardinal deacon shall be created under twenty-two years of age. He also declares that if one so created be not already in deacon's orders, he must receive them within the year, or remain without any voice in the College. Many Popes have, by dispensation, permitted the interval allowed before the necessity of taking deacon's orders to be greatly extended. But if the Pontiff happened to die during the time thus allowed, the cardinal who was not in orders could not, save by forthwith receiving them, enter the Conclave or vote for the new Pope.
In this matter of the age, however, at which a cardinal could be created, as in so many others, it has been found impossible to bind one infallible Vicar of Christ by the decree of another. Despite all rules and precedents to the contrary, each Pope created such persons cardinals as it was convenient to him to create. Giocinto Bobo Orsini was created cardinal at twenty by Honorius II. in 1126, and became Pope as Celestine III. sixty-five years afterwards ! Clement VI., in 1348, created his nephew, Peter Roger, cardinal at seventeen; and this young cardinal also became Pope in 1370 under the name of Gregory XI. Eugenius IV., in 1440, made his nephew, Peter Barbo, cardinal, who also subsequently became Pope as Paul II. Sixtus IV., in 1477, created John of Arragon, the son of Ferdinand, King of Naples, cardinal at the age of fourteen, but gave him the hat only four years later. The same Pontiff, at the same time, created his nephew, Raffaelle Riario, cardinal when he was seventeen and a student at Pisa.
Innocent VIII. (ob. 1492) created Giovanni Medicis, who afterwards became Leo X., and who had been Apostolic Protonotary ever since he was seven years old, cardinal at the age of fourteen, adding the condition that he was not to wear the purple till three years later, evidently indicating his (Pope Innocent's) opinion that a cardinal of seventeen might be created without scandal, as indeed such a step was, as we have seen, not without precedent. Alexander VI. (ob. 1503) created Ippolito d’Este a cardinal at seventeen, having the excuse indeed that Ippolito had at that time been an archbishop for the last nine years, Sixtus IV. having appointed him to the archiepiscopal see of Strigonia at the age of eight! At the same time Alexander created
Frederic Casimir Jagellon, the son of the King of Poland, when he was nineteen, and had already for some little time been Bishop of Cracow.
Leo X. (ob. 1521) was hardly grateful to the Pope who had made him a cardinal at fourteen, for, when Pope, he made Innocenzo Cibo, the nephew of his old patron, wait till his twenty-first year for the purple. But he created William de Croy a cardinal at nineteen, and Alfred of Portugal, the son of the King, at seven years old, on condition that he should not assume the outward marks of the dignity till he should have reached the mature age of fourteen! He also made John of Lorraine, son of Duke René II. of Sicily, cardinal at twenty, Alexander VI. having previously made him coadjutor to the bishopric of Metz at four years of age ! Hercules Gonzaga, who had been made bishop of his native Mantua at fifteen by Leo X., was made cardinal by Clement VII. at twenty-two. The poor Bishop must have almost despaired by that time of ever reaching the purple ! Clement made his own cousin Ippolito at eighteen, and Odet de Coligny, at the request of Francis I. of France, when he was in his twelfth year. .
This promotion, however, turned out ill. For Coligny, though he became Bishop of Beauvais in his thirteenth, and Archbishop of Toulouse in his fourteenth year, and held many abbeys into the bargain, fell eventually into heresy, and had to be formally deposed from the purple. His heresy, indeed, was of the most flagrant sort. At Beauvais, one Easter, he received the Holy Communion in both kinds, which,
though he was a bishop and an archbishop, not being in full priest's orders, it was sacrilege to do. Then he “ took to the profession of arms, giving thereby terrible scandal to all Catholics." Yet those who remembered the history of their Church, and the example of Julius II., and many another Pope and cardinal and bishop, need not have been so scandalized at this. But he fought on the wrong side! And still worse married, or, as the ecclesiastical writers are careful to point out, pretended to marry, a wife, Isabelle di Loré, Lady of Hauteville, “whom, deacon as he was, he lived with as a concubine.” Thereupon Pius IV. (ob. 1565), on the 11th of September, 1563, proclaimed his deposition from the cardinalate throughout all France. He was exiled thence, escaped to England, where Elizabeth gave him and his wife Sion House to live in. He died and was buried at Canterbury, in 1568, poisoned, as was said, by his servants.
How fearful and wonderful a thing, that one whom the Church had so marked for her own that she made him a cardinal at eleven, a bishop at twelve, and an archbishop at thirteen, should have been so little seriously impressed by the sacred nature of his responsibilities and respect for his Church! Truly marvellous and incomprehensible are the ways of Providence ! · There seems to be reason, however, to doubt whether, despite all that has been stated, Coligny, if he had presented himself at a conclave for the election of a Pope, could have been canonically excluded and deprived of his vote. But this is a subject to which we shall have to return in a later chapter.