Will Diarmuid Martin get an appointment?

Will Diarmuid Martin get an appointment? Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to announce that he is shortly to appoint new cardinals. But will Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin be among them? When Dr Martin – a career Vatican diplomat – was despatched from Rome in 2003 to take over from Cardinal Desmond Connell everyone though it was only a matter of time before he too would get the nod and be given the so-called ‘red hat’ and be created a cardinal.

It hasn’t happened though. This will be the fourth time that Pope Benedict XVI will appoint members to the elite Church body that will pick his successor and the Roman rumour-mill is already in full flight. Diarmuid Martin’s name is already being mentioned in despatches as a likely contender.

But there’s been disappointment in the past as new cardinals have trotted to Rome to receive their honour and Diarmuid Martin has been left in Dublin.

One Vatican watcher – Robert Mickens – even speculated a few days ago that the Dublin archbishop could even be an outside chance himself to replace Pope Benedict!

The great unknown in all of this of course in the relationship between Pope Benedict XVI and Dr Martin: little is known of how the two men get on personally.

Cardinal Desmond Connell was known to be close to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before his election as Pope in 2005 and both men served together for many years on the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Dr Connell even organised an eve-of-conclave reception for English-speaking cardinals in 2005 which observers say was crucial in swinging the votes of English-speaking cardinals behind the Ratzinger candidacy.

During his time in Rome Archbishop Martin lived in the Teutonic College, a house where Cardinal Ratzinger once lived and was a frequent visitor and dinner guest. Whether or not Cardinal Ratzinger and Diarmuid Martin shared any personal closeness, however, remains a bit of a mystery.

When Irish bishops returned from a summit in Rome at the height of the abuse crisis in February 2010, some said they felt that Archbishop Martin’s wings had been clipped. They felt that he had been put under pressure for some of the more critical comments he made about other bishops. Archbishop Martin, of course, denied this. However, he has said on a number of occasions that he has felt isolated in dealing with clerical sexual abuse.

There can be little doubt that Archbishop Martin has put his heart and soul into dealing with the issue of abuse since coming to Dublin in 2003. His appointment as a cardinal could serve as a ringing endorsement from Pope Benedict for the forthright way in which he has put the protection of children first and been willing to step on some toes to ensure that his brother bishops in Ireland followed suit.

If he is passed over again is it a snub? It will undoubtedly be seen as such in some quarters but I think that would be wrong. Ireland already has two cardinals in Desmond Connell (though at 85 he is ineligible to vote in a papal election) and Seán Brady, the Vatican might feel that such a small country doesn’t need three cardinals. This is especially true since there are currently only nine vacancies among the cardinal-electors (although two more cardinals will vacate their seats by turning 80 in the next few weeks).

So, if I had to put a bet on, I’d say Diarmuid Martin will miss out again. It’s a pity though; he is a powerful voice and, unlike Cardinal Seán Brady, cannot be accused over his own role in mishandling abuse allegations in the past.

It makes the Dublin archbishop an even longer-shot to become Pope. The last non-cardinal to be elected Pope was Pope Urban VI in1378. That’s a long time – even in Church history!