The presence of so many cardinals -- Egan, Rigali, O'Malley and Ouellet to name a few -- at the installation of Archbishop Timothy Dolan in New York raises one fair question. When might the New York prelate receive his own red hat?
While it's nobody's business but Rome's as to which members of the USCCB are decked out in red, we can still discern a general answer to this question using a combination of a few church precedents and simple math.
First, Vatican officials notwithstanding, the American cardinals head archdioceses of particular prominence or historical importance -- New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia. Of course, Pope Benedict demonstrated that this list is flexible in late 2007 when he elevated then-Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston to the College of Cardinals to honor the growth of the Church in the American South.
The next fact worth noting is that, of this list of eight cities, only half (Boston, Philly, Chicago and LA) have archbishops who are currently cardinals.
The reason for this, as has been cited by Rocco Palmo and other voices in Catholic media, is that tradition does not allow for more than one cardinal who is eligible to vote in a conclave for a new pope per diocese. And since a cardinal can vote in a conclave until the age of 80, this leaves the retired cardinal-archbishops of Detroit, Baltimore, Washington and New York sporting red while their successors do not.
Since becoming pope, Benedict XVI has elevated two groups of cardinals, the first in March 2006, the second in November 2007. The observation by John Thavis of Catholic News Service and others is that the pope has taken a "topping off the tank" approach to naming cardinals. That is, he names only a dozen or two at a time to replace those who have died or turned 80 in the last year, keeping the voting-age total of the College of Cardinals around its prescribed 120 members.
That the number of voting-age cardinals has only dropped to 115 in the almost year and a half since the last consistory suggests that Benedict's next batch of cardinals may still be a ways off, but this is just as well for the American archbishops awaiting red hats, whose predecessors don't turn 80 until March of 2010 at the earliest and April of 2012 at the latest.
So when might Archbishop Dolan become Cardinal Dolan? Barring acts of God or a papal break with tradition, anywhere from spring to fall of 2012 would be a reasonable guess.
In true Benedict XVI fashion, we'll likely pick up a trickle of new American cardinals in the meantime, in the aforementioned other cities, to say nothing of Archbishop Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis, now prefect of the Apostolic Signature (or chief justice of the Vatican's supreme court), whose new job more-or-less assures a red hat.