William Wakefield Baum

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His Eminence
William Wakefield Baum
Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary
See Santa Croce in Via Flaminia
Appointed April 6, 1990
Term ended November 22, 2001
Predecessor Luigi Dadaglio
Successor Luigi de Magistris
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in via Flaminia
Ordination May 12, 1951
by Edwin Vincent O'Hara
Consecration April 6, 1970
by John Carberry
Created Cardinal May 24, 1976
by Paul VI
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Birth name William White
Born (1926-11-21)November 21, 1926
Dallas, Texas, United States of America
Died July 23, 2015(2015-07-23) (aged 88)
Washington D.C., United States of America
Nationality American
Denomination Roman Catholic
Previous post
Motto Ministerium reconciliationis (The ministry of reconciliation)
2 Corinthians 5:18
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Styles of
William Baum
Coat of arms of William Wakefield Baum.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal

William Wakefield Baum (November 21, 1926 – July 23, 2015) was an American cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau (1970–73) and Archbishop of Washington (1973–80) before serving in the Roman Curia as Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (1980–90) and Major Penitentiary (1990–2001).[1] He was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1976. At the time of his 1980 appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, he was the highest-ranking American ever in the Church. Cardinal Baum was the longest-serving American cardinal in history.[2][3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

William Wakefield White was born in Dallas, Texas, to Harold E. and Mary Leona (née Hayes) White.[5] His father, a Presbyterian, died when William was a young child, and he and his mother moved to Kansas City, Missouri.[6] His mother married Jerome Charles Baum, a Jewish businessman, who adopted William and gave him his last name; Jerome Baum died when William was 12.[7]

He received his early education at the parochial school of St. Peter's Church, and began to serve as an altar boy at age 10.[8] He entered St. John's Minor Seminary in 1940, and then studied philosophy at Glennon College in St. Louis.[7] In 1947, he entered Kenrick Seminary, also in St. Louis, for his theological studies.[8]


Baum was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Edwin V. O'Hara on May 12, 1951.[1] His first assignment was as assistant pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Kansas City.[9] He taught theology and Church history at St. Theresa College from 1954 to 1956, as well as at St. Aloysius Academy and Glennon High School.[6] He then studied at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome, where he earned a Doctorate of Sacred Theology degree in 1958.[5] His thesis was entitled: "The Teaching of Cardinal Cajetan on the Sacrifice of the Mass".[6]

Returning to Kansas City, Baum resumed his teaching duties at St. Theresa College (1958–63) and served as secretary of the Diocesan Tribunal.[7] He also did pastoral work at St. Theresa's Church and St. Peter's Church, both in Kansas City.[8] In 1960, he became pastor of St. Cyril's Church in Sugar Creek.[7] He published "Considerations Toward the Theology of the Presbyterate" in 1961.[10] He was named a papal chamberlain by Pope John XXIII in April 1961, and vice-chancellor of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in 1962.[5]

From 1962 to 1965, Baum served as a peritus, or theological expert, to Bishop Charles Helmsing at the Second Vatican Council.[8] In that capacity, he worked with the Secretariat for Christian Unity and helped draft Unitatis Redintegratio, the Council's decree on ecumenism.[7] In 1964, he was named the first executive director of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, a post which he held for five years.[10] He also served as a member of the Joint Working Group of representatives of the Catholic Church and World Council of Churches (1965–69) and of the Mixed Committee of representatives of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (1965–66).[8]

In 1967, Baum returned to Kansas City, where he served as chancellor of the diocese and pastor of St. James Church.[9] He was named a domestic prelate in 1968.[5]

Episcopal ministry[edit]

Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau[edit]

On February 18, 1970, Baum was appointed the third Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau by Pope Paul VI.[1] He received his episcopal consecration on the following April 6 from Cardinal John Carberry, with Bishops Charles Helmsing and Joseph Sullivan serving as co-consecrators.[1] He selected as his episcopal motto: "Ministry of Reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18).[10]

He served as an American delegate to the World Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 1971, and was chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (1972–75).[5]

Archbishop of Washington[edit]

Three years later Paul VI elevated him to Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and in the consistory of 1976 Baum was named Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Via Flaminia. He participated in the two conclaves of 1978.[11]

Career in the Roman Curia[edit]

Under Pope John Paul II, in 1980 he was named to the Roman Curia as Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, succeeding the French Cardinal Gabriel-Marie Garrone. The Italian Cardinal Pio Laghi succeeded him in that position. In 1990 he became the Church's Major Penitentiary, succeeding the Italian Cardinal Luigi Dadaglio, exchanging the responsibility of overseeing the Catholic Church's educational policy and structure, parochial schools, Catholic colleges and universities, Newman Centers, and seminaries worldwide, for that of supervising one of the three final appellate tribunals of the Church (the other two are the Roman Rota, which among other matters deals with marriage cases, and the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, which is the church's supreme court- which mainly resolves technicalities or procedural disagreements- for all cases the Pope does not hear). Cardinal Baum's position as Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary involved mostly dealing with the regulation of indulgences and matters of conscience (the internal forum)- especially the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He was succeeded as Major Penitentiary by Cardinal Luigi de Magistris, who in turn was replaced by another American, James Francis Stafford, who had been Archbishop of Denver.

Baum was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. Along with Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) and Cardinal Jaime Sin, Baum was one of three remaining cardinals elevated by Paul VI to retain voting rights in that conclave. Cardinal Baum was the senior Cardinal Priest to participate in the 2005 papal conclave.[12]

Later life and Death[edit]

Somewhat frail in his later years, Cardinal Baum also suffered from deteriorating eyesight. His resignation as Penitentiary was accepted the day after his 75th birthday in 2001, but he remained active in Rome to the extent that his health permitted, and attended the meeting of American cardinals called to deal with the sex abuse scandal in 2003. He lived in Washington, D.C. until his death, and died in a home in Washington, D.C., run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, where he had spent his last years, according to Cardinal Wuerl and Archdiocesan spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi.[13]

With the election of Ratzinger as pope on April 19, 2005, followed by the death of Cardinal Jaime Sin on June 21, 2005, Baum became the last cardinal elevated by Pope Paul VI to maintain voting rights in a papal conclave. Upon Baum reaching the age of 80 on November 21, 2006, all cardinals who may vote in a conclave had been elevated by Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI.

On March 8, 2011, Baum became the longest-serving American cardinal, surpassing the record established by James Gibbons of Baltimore in 1921.

On July 26, 2015 Cardinal Baum died at the age of 88.

Upon hearing of his death,[14] Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolence to Donald William Cardinal Wuerl, the incumbent Cardinal Archbishop of Washington,:

"I was saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal William Wakefield Baum, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and I offer my heartfelt condolences, together with the assurance of my prayers, to you and to all the faithful of the Archdiocese. With gratitude for the late Cardinal’s years of episcopal service in Springfield-Cape Girardeau and in Washington, and for his long service to the Apostolic See as Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education and subsequently Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, I join you in commending the late Cardinal’s soul to God the Father of mercies. To all present at the Mass of Christian Burial and to all who mourn Cardinal Baum in the hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and consolation in the Lord.

FRANCIS PP."[15][16]

Cardinal Wuerl issued the following statement regarding Cardinal Baum's death,[17][18][19] and also memorialized him on his blog:[20]

"It is with sorrow that I announce the death of Cardinal William Wakefield Baum, the third Archbishop of Washington. As we grieve our loss we also thank God for his ministry, particularly as our archbishop from 1973 to 1980. He will be remembered for his kindness and dedication to the ministry to which God called him. Cardinal Baum was a joy-filled priest with a firm personal commitment to serve the Lord, which he did faithfully for 64 years of ordained life. He was the longest serving cardinal in American history. While Cardinal Baum will be remembered for his long and distinguished service in Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education and later as the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican office for matters of conscience, his memory will always be dear to this Church of Washington which, for him, was home. With his death I have lost a longtime friend with whom I had the privilege of working in a variety of capacities going back to the late seventies. It was a privilege to have assisted under his direction with the first apostolic visitation of the seminaries in the United States at the request of Pope John Paul II from 1981 to 1986. As I offer my prayers for him and my sympathy to his family and friends, I also thank God for the generosity with which Cardinal Baum responded with a quiet but firm and enduring yes to God’s call that enabled him to touch, by his ministry, so many people over so many years. May God now grant him a place in the house of Our Father."[21]

Services for Cardinal Baum will be: a Vigil from 3:00 PM – 6:30 PM, on Thursday, July 30, 2015, at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, a Vigil Mass the same day, at 7:00 PM, and a Funeral Mass (Requiem Mass) at the Cathedral at 2:00 PM the next day, Friday, July 31, 2015. Interment will be in the Crypt of the Cathedral.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d "William Wakefield Cardinal Baum". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Weigel, George (2011-03-16). "Cardinal Baum: A New Record-Holder". First Things. 
  3. ^ "William Baum dead; former Catholic cardinal and Washington archbishop was 88". Newsday. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  4. ^ "Long-serving Cardinal Baum lived a generous response to God". Angelusnews.com. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Miranda, Salvador. "BAUM, William Wakefield (1926– )". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. 
  6. ^ a b c Onofrio, Jan (1996). Texas Biographical Dictionary I (III ed.). New York: Somerset Publishers, Inc. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Denzer, Marty (2011-06-02). "Cardinal William Baum, 60 years a priest". The Catholic Key. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "William Cardinal Baum". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  9. ^ a b "BAUM Card. William Wakefield". Holy See. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  10. ^ a b c "An American Proponent of Ecumenism". The New York Times. 1976-04-28. 
  11. ^ "William Wakefield Baum". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. 
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ "Cardinal Baum, 3rd Archbishop of Washington, dead at 88". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  14. ^ Schudel, Matt. "Cardinal William Baum, former archbishop of Washington, dies at 88". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  15. ^ "Telegramma di cordoglio del Santo Padre per la morte del Card. William Wakefield Baum". Press.vatican.va. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  16. ^ "Translator". Microsofttranslator.com. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  17. ^ "DC Archdiocese (@WashArchdiocese)". Twitter. 2009-04-17. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  18. ^ "Archdiocese of Washington - Hyattsville, Maryland - Religious Organization, Religious Center". Facebook. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  19. ^ "Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau - Springfield, MO - Religious Organization". Facebook. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  20. ^ "Cardinal William Baum 1926-2015 - Seek First the Kingdom: Catholic Blog by Cardinal Donald Wuerl - Archdiocese of Washington, DC Seek First the Kingdom: Catholic Blog by Cardinal Donald Wuerl – Archdiocese of Washington, DC". Cardinalsblog.adw.org. 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  21. ^ "Statement of Cardinal Donald Wuerl on the Death of Cardinal William Wakefield Baum, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington - Archdiocese of Washington". Adw.org. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
  22. ^ "Cardinal Baum, longest serving U.S. cardinal, witnessed and made history". Catholicnews.com. Retrieved 2015-07-27. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Ignatius Jerome Strecker
Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
Succeeded by
Bernard Francis Law
Preceded by
Patrick O'Boyle
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington
Succeeded by
James Aloysius Hickey
Preceded by
Gabriel-Marie Garrone
Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education
Succeeded by
Pio Laghi
Preceded by
Luigi Dadaglio
Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary
Succeeded by
Luigi de Magistris