Canon 171 can invalidate a Papal Election

So Says noted Canonist, Jesús Miñambres

Rome — January 5, 2015:  In previous reports made by the From Rome blog, we have speculated (here & here) that the actions alleged by Dr. Austen Ivereigh as done by the group of Cardinals who promoted the candidacy of Cardinal Bergoglio in the 2013 Conclave might well fall under those penalized by the papal law on elections, Universi Dominici Gregis, paragraph 81 (hereafter UDG 81, cf. canon 1329 which expands its penalties for accomplices), and thus render the election invalid on account of the stipulations of canon 171 §1 & §2.

Now, we can report that the noted canonist, Fr. Jesús Miñambres, JCD — currently an Professor in Canon Law at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce, in Rome; and consultor for the Congregation for the Clergy — in his published commentary on the papal law, entitled, “Commento alla Costituzione Apostolica Universi dominici gregis”, supports this canonical possibility.  We cite his commentary as cited in the Italian text of Geraldina Boni, herself a canonist, presented by Sandro Magister at Espresso Online:

«N. 68 La prescrizione di questo numero è più esigente della norma generale applicabile ad ogni elezione canonica (cf. can. 173 § 3 CIC e can. 955 § 3 CCEO), per quanto il numero delle schede potrebbe non corrispondere a quello degli elettori sia per eccesso che per difetto. Pare escludersi in questo modo la possibilità dell’astensione […]. La norma del numero seguente prevede, però, un caso nel quale, dopo un primo conteggio che sembra regolare, il ritrovamento di una quantità maggiore di schede riguardo a quella degli elettori al momento dello spoglio non annulla la votazione.

«N. 69. La nullità di uno o più voti non rende invalida l’elezione, giacché al momento dello spoglio non è più in gioco la validità della votazione ma soltanto quella dei singoli voti; il caso delle due schede piegate in modo strano non è che un’esemplificazione. Infatti, in mancanza di regolamentazione più precisa è applicabile anche all’elezione del romano pontefice il principio generale per le elezioni canoniche stabilito dal CIC: i requisiti di validità del voto vengono elencati nel can. 172 CIC, mentre quelli riguardanti la validità dell’elezione sono ripresi nei cann. 166 § 3, 169 e 170. Il can. 171 § 2 stabilisce l’unica fattispecie in cui la nullità di un voto fa invalidare l’elezione, quando uno dei votanti fosse inabile a norma del § 1 dello stesso canone e, tolto quel voto, l’eletto non avesse riportato il numero di preferenze richiesto» (7).

Our unofficial English translation of which is as follows:

N. 68.  The prescription of UDG 68 is more exacting than the general norm applicable to every canonical election (cf. canon 173 § 3 of the Codex Iuris Canonicis of 1983 and canon 955 § 3 of the Codex for the Oriental Churches), inasmuch as the number of ballots might not correspond to that of the electors whether by excess or deficiency.  In this manner, it seems to exclude the possibility that an elector might abstain from voting … The norm of this number provides, however, for the case in which after a first count which appears regular, that the finding of a greater quantity of ballots than the number of electors, at the moment of the emptying of the box, does not invalidate the votation.

N. 69.  The nullity of one or more vote-ballots does not render the election invalid, since at the moment of the emptying of the ballot box the validity of the election is not put in question, but only that of the individual votes; the case of two vote-ballots folded in a strange manner is not an exception.  In fact, in absence of a more precise regulation there is applicable even to the election of the Roman Pontiff the general principle for canonical elections established by the Codex Iuris Canonicis of 1983:  the requirements for validity for a vote are listed in canon 172, while those regarding the validity of the election are cited in canons 166 §3, 169 and 170.  Canon 171 §2 establishes the unique fatispecie under which the nullity of a vote causes the invalidity of the election, when one of the voters might be incapable according to the norm of §1 of the same canon, and with his vote removed, the elected would not have obtained the number required for election (7).

The footnote (7) in Geraldina Boni’s text reads as follows:

(7) Jesús Miñambres, “Commento alla Costituzione Apostolica ‘Universi dominici gregis'”, in Legislazione sull’organizzazione centrale della Chiesa, a cura di Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Javier Canosa, Jesús Miñambres, Giuffrè, Milano, 1997, pp. 79-81; nello stesso senso Mario Francesco Pompedda, “Commento alla ‘Constitutio Apostolica'”, cit., p. 354.

It is precisely this possibility which the From Rome blog has averred to from the start, which establishes the validity of our analysis from the beginning.

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3 comments on “Canon 171 can invalidate a Papal Election

  1. […] 5, 2015:  The From Rome blog publishes, Canon 171 can invalidate a Papal Election, in which we present our English translation of Fr. Jesús Miñambres‘ commentary on the […]

  2. […] specified as a condition for canon 171 §1, ° 3 (innodare).  Thus there is no doubt that canon 171 invalidates papal elections in which the number of votes necessary for election (2/3 majority) is obtained by counting 16 votes […]

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