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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cardinals by Country

The world's cardinals are evenly distributed in North America, Africa and Asia, based upon population of Catholics in those regions. The big glaring exception to this lies in South America and Europe. Both continents have roughly 25% of the world's Catholics in them, but Europe has about 52 cardinals and South America has about 11.

*I am going to be using the word about a lot since you can differentiate voting and non-voting Cardinals and lots of other qualifiers like that.

Brazil's cardinal to believer ratio is 1 per 12.5 million believers (it has 10 cardinals and a Catholic population of 125 million.

Italy's is the highest at about 1 per 1.1 million believers (44 cardinals in a population of 50 million believers). In other words, there are 10 times more cardinals in Italy than there are in Brazil per believer.

Another big offender is Spain, with 1 per about 3 million (11 cardinals with 32 million believers).

Three other countries of interest are Poland, Germany and France.

Poland's ratio is about 1 to 5 million (6 cardinals for 33 million faithful).

Germany's ratio is about 1 to 2 million (10 for 23 million).

France's ratio is about 1 to 4.5 million (i.e. 9 for about 40 million)

In the Philippines, it is one per 20 million (4 cardinals for 80 million believers).

Mexico and the United States are the second and fourth largest Catholic countries respectively.

The Mexican ratio is about 1 to 20 million (5 for about 99 million faithful)

The US ratio is about 1 to  4.5 (15 for about 66 million faithful)

Some regions are anomalous, like Oceania. It is massively over-represented, but that is because its Catholic population is so small (even with a mere 3 cardinals).

Let's put this in an easier to comprehend format:


Take-aways from this investigation:

1. The difference between Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines, on the one hand, and France, Spain, USA, and Germany on the other shamefully reflects an imbalance of wealth.

2. Germany's uppityness in the Church is due in significant part to its excessive influence in the College of Cardinals.

3. Although the wealth to power ratio in (1) is a shameful fact about the Church, there is a clear power to geographical closeness to Italy ratio at work too.

4. Italy. Come on! There's no need of this.


A Speculation:

What would be the impact of a more even distribution of the cardinals? I think many people are tempted to think along the lines of the left/right or liberal conservative dichotomy. But I wonder whether this would actually make the Church more missionary. That half the world's cardinals come from Old World Europe - the grandmother, as Pope Francis once referred to it - cannot but have the consequence, it seems to me, of equating Catholicism with a cultural tradition, rather than as a cultural dynamic.


A Final Addendum:

Were the Philippines to have the same number of cardinals per believer as Germany, it would need 160, or an additional 156, which is, of course, around the size of the College as a whole. Conversely, were Germany to have the same ratio as the Philippines, it would have one cardinal, that is, nine fewer than it actually has. On the other hand, if both Germany and the Philippines were to have average representation in the College, they would have about 4 and 13, respectively.

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