EWTN Catholic Q&A
Cardinals' Names
Question from Andrew on 04-20-2005:

Why do cardinals' names look different? For example, in the case of the former Joseph Ratzinger, why, when he was cardinal, did his name look like: JOSEPH CARDINAL RATZINGER? Why is the word "cardinal" in the middle of his name? Thank you for your help! God Bless! HABEMUS PAPAM!!

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 04-21-2005:

You touch upon a custom that is a truly ancient one. In appropriate use of the title of cardinal, one should always address a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals by using their Christian name, the title Cardinal, and then the surname (e.g., His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York). The reasons for this stem from distant history. It was longstanding custom in the early days of the development of the Roman Curia and the papal household for the priests holding prominent positions in Rome to be known by their Christian names, especially as it was not then common practice for anyone to have a surname (or what we would understand as a family name). Thus, to avoid confusion and to provide a means of recognizing the position of these individuals, it became common practice to attach the name of the church over which he served to the Christian name. When the title of cardinal was introduced, it too became attached. The practice of using the Christian name and then the title was also seen in the development of protocol for nobility (from whose ranks many cardinals during the Middle Ages and into modern times were often drawn). Thus, given the diplomatic, aristocratic, and prestigious positions that cardinals held, it was deemed appropriate to address them as one would any other member of the nobility in Europe. Just as one might refer to someone as John, duke of Burgundy or George, earl of Gloucester (to use somewhat fanciful examples), so one would refer to a cardinal as Ercole Cardinal Consalvi. The tradition continues today, although it is found in formal circumstances. The more casual ways of using titles means that we often see in newspapers or common parlance, Cardinal Edward Egan, etc. I hope this answers your question.