Over the next few weeks a new pope will be elected. It’s no secret that while many cardinals are gathered in Rome, only the ones under 80 will be allowed to vote.
The practical purpose behind this policy is political. Its effects were more pronounced in the election that followed the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005. At that time there were still a number of aged cardinals who had been appointed not by John Paul II, who made a policy of stocking the church hierarchy with reactionaries, but by the more moderate Paul VI. By excluding these aged cardinals, the church was keeping a number of moderates and even liberals from having a voice in its policies. While this rule will not have so pronounced an effect in the coming election, it nonetheless remains.
The Catholic Church is no stranger to discrimination. It discriminates, for example, against women in not allowing them to be priests. And in the case of cardinals, it discriminates against the elderly.
It does not become the Catholic Church to support the widespread bias effecting today’s elderly. More traditional societies paid close attention to their elders. Younger people knew they had much to learn from their grandparents’ experiences.
The church would do well do reconsider these policies.