Cardinal Nichols, I gather, has been mentioned quite a bit by those who like to speculate, as a probable Cardinal Prefect of the new dicastery for the Family. I have nothing against this; if that's the sort of career move that appeals to him, good luck to him.
But Papa Bergoglio would enhance his Media reputation for being a man who thinks 'outside the box' if he appointed a married man or woman to head the Congregation of the Family. After all, there are very many married Catholics in families throughout the world! I am not one of those who assume that celibate clergy know nothing about family life: after all, most of them grew up in families! But ... well ... there are an awful lot of bachelors in the Roman Curia already, and a bit of a break from wall-to-wall bachelordom would make it a trifle less monochrome an organisation. And there could hardly be a better place to start than this.
I see no peremptory doctrinal reason why dicasterial heads should not be lay*; nor would it worry me to see a woman in such a role (Mary Ann Glendon, sadly, is beyond the retirement age). But I would agree that there is a great suitability in the Curia Romana consisting of the Clerus Romanus, in the shape of the Suburbicarian Bishops, the Cardinal Presbyters, and the Cardinal Deacons of the Holy Roman Church.
And it would be splendid if we could move back to having, at least sometimes and in principle, presbyters as Cardinal Presbyters, deacons as Cardinal Deacons. One of the few things on which Cardinal Kasper and I agree is that there is something totally unnecessary about making all top dicasterial functionaries into bishops. As I wrote at the beginning of this Pontificate, Episcopal Consecration should no longer be seen as a snazzy fashion accessory or as a way of giving a bureaucrat enhanced status so that the Swiss Guards have to salute him, just like the sentries at Horseguards' Parade saluting bowler-hatted brigadiers. The rule whereby senior Vatican bureaucrats all have to be hosed down with episcopacy before they can properly push pen on paper is daft. In fact, that silly rule was brought in as recently as the pontificate of S John XXIII. Only then did the mighty Cardinal Ottaviani, for example, deign to accept episcopacy.
And there are very many married priests in the world: the ex-Anglicans now as well as those from the ancient sui iuris Eastern Churches. Since a 'Permanent Diaconate' was set up after Vatican II, there must be thousands of married deacons to choose from. A really presbyteral Cardinal Presbyter, or a really diaconal Cardinal Deacon, accompanied by his wife and children, would make a massively suitable first head of this Congregation.
I have a nominee, who may serve as a worthy exemplar of the point I am making. A truly imaginative Roman Pontiff would give this job to the Reverend Deacon Dr Stephen Morgan of the diocese of Portsmouth. He's an academic expert on Blessed John Henry Newman (incidentally, another nonepiscopal Cardinal); just think how immeasurably the Curia would be strengthened if it contained more Newman experts. And he deacons the Extraordinary Form, which would qualify him to be one of the Cardinals associated with the CDW and Ecclesia Dei. And he's already pretty eminent, so he wouldn't need whatever painful surgical procedure it is that makes all those cardinal chappies so 'Eminent'. And he knows about money, which would mean that Cardinal Pell had a shoulder to cry on. And he's a committed friend of the Ordinariates, so it would give us another chum in Urbe. Remember us, Eminence, when you come into your Deaconry! Who'll open a sub for his Cappa Magna?
As far as I can see, everyone would be a gainer, except for Bishop Philip Egan.
But I expect the job will go to Vin or some other bachelor, who will of course do it well.
A pity, though. An exciting opportunity missed.
*HURRIED POST SCRIPTUM: Of course, it would he dangerously, disastrously confusing if lay curialists were given the style "Cardinal", an idea the German and Swiss bishops have just been reported to be sponsoring in their media (I haven't yet been able to verify the details). Presumably, if this were to be true, they are pushing the idea in order to be confusing: "If someone as important as a Cardinal can be a woman, why on earth can't women occupy the much lowlier positions of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons?" The devil's wiles are endless, and Marx hungrily gobbles them all up. I wonder if the CBCEW, in their post-Easter Meeting, would again fall into the German line, as they did last autumn in their disgraceful attack on Pope Benedict's Good Friday Prayer in the Extraordinary Form.