Tag Archives: Cardinal Priest

“Pro Hac Vice” Titles: History and Trivia.

by Anura Guruge

The plain exterior of San Cesareo in Palatio, the FUTURE “John Paul II’s” deaconry when he was created a Cardinal Priest in June 1967 — 11-years ahead of becoming Pope.

Pro hac vice, in the context of the Catholic Church, is when a Roman deaconry (normally to be assigned to a cardinal deacon) is elevated by the pope, for the time being, to the status of a titular church so that it can be assigned to a newly created Cardinal Priest. So, it means that the Cardinal Priest is getting a deaconry that has been ‘elevated for the duration’ to be a titular church. The Latin pro hac vice meaning “for this occasion only” — designating that it is a temporary elevation. In theory you can also have a pro hac vice situation if the pope decides to assign a titular church to a new created Cardinal Deacon.

Which pope held a pro hac vice title when elected?

John Paul II (#265), when elected pope on October 16, 1978.

From what I can see (and I confess I have not done exhaustive research into this topic) John Paul II was the only pope who has had a pro hac vice title.

Again, from what I can see, there is an easy explanation as to why other popes did not hold pro hac vice titles. I really haven’t had a chance to research the history of pro hac vice (and doubt whether I will get a chance to do so in my lifetime). I had assumed that pro hac vice usage came to be with  Paul VI (#263) given that I could not recall seeing any pro hac vice prior to Paul VI (and my memory isn’t that great when it comes to the histories of individual cardinals). I also thought that the reason why Paul may have come with the idea was rather straightforward. I have now been informed that pro hac vice pre-dates Paul VI — though I don’t have a detailed analysis of its prior usage; i.e., was it mainly in the case of jus optionis promotions. If somebody could do this research, I will be extremely grateful.

Sixtus ‘iron pope’ V (#228), the Franciscan, ex-inquisitor general, on December 3, 1586 in his landmark Postquam verus constitution that set the parameters and tone for the College and curia for the next 350 years did as follows. Four months later, in his Religiosa constitution, he clearly articulated that that there should not be any inter-mingling of titles [i.e., churches] and deaconries.

Between 1586 and 1963, the College was maintained at or below, 70 and there was never a shortage of titles and deaconries. So there was no need for pro hac vice — which is mainly used when a pope runs short of cardinal priest titles (though there is nothing to stop a pope creating a cardinal deacon with a pro hac vice title ‘demoted’ to a deaconry).

The came John XXIII (#262). He was a pope in a hurry, with a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve. Without ever putting down anything in writing that he was overriding Sixtus V, he just waived aside Sixtus V’s time-tested edicts re. the College creating titles and deaconries, in a rush, to accommodate his desire to enlarge and diversify the College. Succeeding popes (other than poor John Paul I (#264) who, alas, didn’t get a chance) have followed John’s example with gusto — with none having, at a minimum, the moral fortitude (if not the necessary anatomical appendages) to set a maximum size for the College (and the orders within it) as did the iron pope — given that setting a ceiling would be seen by prelates as an impediment to their progress up the Church ladder.

So, Paul VI resorted to pro hac vice, when he was short on titles.

At this stage it is worth clarifying that the distinction between Pro hac vice, which means for this occasion, and pro illa vice for that occasion. Given this subtle difference in tense, pro hac vice is said to apply to currently living cardinals, while pro illa vice applies to deceased cardinals. But, this convention isn’t strictly maintained and one can think of both terms as being equivalent.

This now brings us to Cardinal Priest Andrzej Maria Deskur’s death on September 3, 2011 — he having been a cardinal with a pro hac vice title. The next day, our frequent contributor, Louis Epstein left a comment that started: ‘Cardinal Deskur (the Pole to whom JP II gave his own old cardinalitial title after a seven-year vacancy) died yesterday.‘ But, there was an interesting twist here not fully reflected in Louis’ comment. Cardinal Deskur died a cardinal priest, but had been created, by his friend, as a cardinal deacon. Karol Józef Wojtyla (John Paul II) could not have been a cardinal deacon since he was mainly a pastoral cleric with only ‘visiting’ roles in the curia. And that was the rub. Karol Wojtyla was created with a pro hac vice title. At the age of 47 years and one month, Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Kraków since 1964, was the 3rd but last cardinal priest named by Paul VI in his June 26, 1967 consistory at which he created 27 new cardinals. This was Paul’s 2nd cardinal creating consistory, he also having created 27 in his first one in February 1965. Quite a few others at this consistory also got pro hav vice titles.

The deaconry assigned to the future pope was San Cesareo in Palatio (in the palace). The Italians (who should know) claim that this is the wrong name! They say, in the Italian version of Wikipedia: ‘The church of San Cesareo de Appia, commonly and erroneously known as San Cesareo in Palatio , is a church of Rome, in the Celio district , near the port of San Sebastian.’ Hhmmm. You would think that the Vatican (though not in Italy per se) would get this right.

The church, whose current structure is from the 17th century, is not very prepossessing from the outside, does, however, have a rather striking mosaic on the altar wall of God the Father among the angels.

As deaconry, it was left unassigned to a cardinal from April 1939 to December 1958 (those being the good ol’ days when there was no mad scramble for titles to accommodate the never ending Red Tide). Then it was assigned to an Italian cardinal, Francesco Bracci. He held it until until his death on March 24, 1967.

Three months later it was assigned to the Archbishop from Poland. He had it for 11 years. When he became pope, he left it unassigned until May 25, 1985 when it was given to Deskur. In January 1996, Deskur chose to be a cardinal priest per jus optionis given that he had completed the requisite 10 years. He then got San Cesareo pro hac vice.

Will be interesting to see who gets it next. I bet it will be a Pole.

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by Anura Guruge