How usurpation of the Papacy leads to the excommunication of the participating Cardinal Electors and Bishops

by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

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Canon 359 expressly withdraws authority from the College of Cardinals to elect a Pope, when the Papal Office is still retained by another: there being no sede vacante. To call a conclave when there is still a true Pope, thus, is illicit. To elect another is to participate actively and immediately in the crime of the usurpation of the Papal Office.

Usurpation is the crime whereby someone without a legitimate claim, lays hold upon or claims an office which is not his.  In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Usurpation is discussed under several canons, usurpation of office in canon 1381.

Though the crime of usurping the papacy is not named in the code expressly — since it has not occurred for centuries, those participating in such a crime can still be excommunicated latae sententiae out of the consequences of such an act, and this in two ways: 1) by the Anti-Pope ordaining bishops and collaborating with him in that, 2) by the crime of schism.

The first regards the crime of usurpation itself in the act of ordaining Bishops.

The worse crime of usurpation mentioned explicitly in the code is in canon 1382:

Can. 1382 — A bishop who consecrates some one a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

Pope John Paul II cited this canon to declare that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of Saint Pius X, was excommunicate on account of his ordination of their 4 Bishops. Bergoglio cited this same canon to “excommunicate” Bishop Williamson, after he was reconciled by Pope Benedict XVI, who undid John Paul II’s excommunication.

This applies to Anti-Popes, inasmuch as not being the legitimate successors of Saint Peter, their ordaining of Bishops is without true pontifical mandate.  It also applies to Bishops who ordain those nominated by Bergoglio, since they too have no true pontifical mandate to act.

Accomplices of both are also punished by the same punishment, as is clear from canon 1329.

Can. 1329 — §1. If ferendae sententiae penalties are established for the principal perpetrator, those who conspire together to commit a delict and are not expressly named in a law or precept are subject to the same penalties or to others of the same or lesser gravity.

§2. Accomplices who are not named in a law or precept incur a latae sententiae penalty attached to a delict if without their assistance the delict would not have been committed, and the penalty is of such a nature that it can affect them; otherwise, they can be punished by ferendae sententiae penalties.

Since the excommunication leveled in canon 1382 takes place immediately without the necessity of any public declaration by any authority, in accord with Canon 1329 §2 all the Cardinals involved in the uncanonical election of an Anti-Pope are also ipso facto excommunicated, since they participate intimately and immediately in his claim to exercise the pontifical mandate.

While it can be argued that those in substantial error as to the invalidity of Benedict’s resignation ought not be excommunicated, because they had good will, they must confront canon 15, which says in § 2: Ignorance or error about a law, a penalty, a fact concerning oneself, or a notorious fact concerning another is not presumedThus, as soon as any Cardinal Elector sees that Benedict resigned the ministerium, not the munus, and that Canon 322 §2 requires the resignation munus — all the while refusing to repudiate the validity of that resignation — he becomes indisputably culpable of the usurpation of the Papal office by way of consent to uphold Bergoglio’s claim to exercise the pontifical mandate, and as such, merits punishment under canons 1382 and 1329 §2.

The second way to excommunication latae sententiae, is through the crime of schism.

Cardinals and Bishops participating in supporting an Anti-Pope are also involved in the crime of schism, since they formally separate themselves from communion to the true Pope. Thus they are also subject to excommunication from canon

Can. 1364 — §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in can. 1336, §1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.

Thus, the controversy over the invalidity of Pope Benedict’s resignation becomes one of the greatest import for Catholics, to know who is truly their pastors and who are truly schismatics and excommunicates.  This is not a joking matter, and any Cardinal or Bishop who treats it as such, should be sternly reminded of such.

Presumption and Silence

Finally, it needs to be pointed out, that whereas there is a presumption of validity of every Conclave, in the event of the death of the Roman Pontiff, however, in the case of a papal resignation, there is no such presumption, and since it is the grave duty of the Cardinals to act in accord with Canon Law in the election of the Roman Pontiff, they had the grave and solemn duty to verify that the resignation of Pope Benedict was in conformity with Canon 332 §2.  If they did verify that, why have they never admitted to having verified it? And if they did not, they ostensibly become culpable of usurpation out of negligence in so grave a duty.

Indeed, the Vatican is full of Doctors of Canon Law, but to my knowledge neither in February of 2013 nor in the following six years, as any Canon Lawyer from the Vatican published any study showing that Non solum propter effects a valid resignation in conformity to canon 322 §2. Nor does it seem that anyone in the Diplomatic Corps asked the Vatican for such a verification.* Nor does it seem that the Italian Government, bound by the Lateran Treaty to uphold only constitutional governments in the Vatican, ever asked for such a verification or explanation. — If this be true, its of the gravest indications that the resignation was never put to any kind of rational scrutiny, but was presumed to be valid by a bunch of giddy men who wanted Benedict out of the way.


For my Scholastic Disputation on the Papal Act of February 11, 2013, see here in English, and here in Spanish translation. For a summary of the Canonical Argument against validity, see Veri Catholici, here in English, and here in Italian translation.

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Image Credits:  Getty Images, Conclave of March 2013.

* For example, Eduard Hapsburg, the Ambassador of Hungary to the Vatican, recently insulted Catholics who question the validity of the resignation. But when asked for a verification of the resignation, remained utterly silent.

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Every Single Cardinal-Elector has right to demand resolution of “Team Bergoglio” scandal

UDG 5 and Canon 1530

The College of Cardinal-Electors convenes for the 2014 Conclave

The College of Cardinal-Electors convenes for the 2014 Conclave

Rome, January 17, 2015:  Ever since the revelation of an organized campaign by 8 Cardinals to promote the election of Cardinal Bergoglio in the 2013 Conclave, which elected him as Pope Francis, there has been a grave public controversy and doubt as to the validity of his election.  This is because the current papal law on elections, the Apostolic Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis, lacked the specific term which would have exempted it from being interpreted according to the general norms of Canon Law: specifically from canons 171 and 1329.

In paragraph 81 of Universi Dominic Gregis (here after UDG), the crime of vote-promising is penalized with automatic excommunication, such that in the very act of promising a vote, a Cardinal elector is excommunicated.  On account of canon 1329, that automatic excommunication is extended to the one asking for the vote promise, even if the one asking is also a Cardinal elector.  On account of the terms of canon 171 §1, the votes of excommunicated electors, even Cardinals in a conclave, cannot be counted in favor of the candidate they name; and on account of canon 171 §2, if they are counted among the number in favor of the candidate in such wise that they cause that number to be sufficient for victory, according to the norms of the election, the election is nullified in all its effects.

Thus the fattispecies, or appearance of facts, in the narrative of Dr. Ivereigh’s book, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, argue for the invalidity of the election of Pope Francis, that is, that Pope Francis did not obtain his office by a legal, lawful, or legitimate means.  That would mean that Catholics not only could legitimately break off communion with him, but would be morally obliged to do so, under pain of mortal sin.

Thus, the probity of the allegations regard a true scandal.

UDG 5 gives a simple solution to the “Team Bergoglio” scandal

Thankfully, Pope John Paul II provided in his papal law on conclaves an easy solution, which any single Cardinal can take advantage of: the terms stated in the 5th paragraph of that law, UDG 5, the official Latin text of which is:

5. Si quae autem dubia exoriantur de sensu praescriptionum, quae hac Nostra Constitutione continentur, aut circa rationem qua ad usum deduci eae debeant, edicimus ac decernimus penes Cardinalium Collegium esse potestatem de his ferendi sententiam; propterea, eidem Cardinalium Collegio facultatem tribuimus interpretandi locos dubios vel in controversiam vocatos, statuentes, ut, si de eiusmodi vel similibus quaestionibus deliberati oporteat, excepto ipso electionis actu, satis sit maiorem congregatorum Cardinalium partem in eandem sententiam convenire.

Our unofficial English translation of which is:

5. Moreover, if which doubts rise up concerning the sense of the prescriptions, which are contained in this Our Constitution, or about the reckoning by which they should be put into practice, We decree and judge that the power to make judgement concerning these is within the College of Cardinals; moreover, We grant to the College of Cardinals the faculty of interpreting doubtful passages and/or those called into controversy, so that, if having deliberated concerning questions of this kind and/or the similar, excepting the very act of the election itself, it be sufficient that the greater part of the Cardinals gathered together agree upon the same sentence.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio takes the vow of secrecy at opening of the 2013 Conclave (BBC, screenshote by From Rome blog, cropped)

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio takes the vow of secrecy at opening of the 2013 Conclave (BBC, screenshot by From Rome blog, cropped)

In this paragraph, Pope John Paul II establishes several specific things.  The first of which is the authority and jurisdiction of the Sacred College over questions regarding the meaning of the individual paragraphs and about the method to be used to put them into practice; second, about the interpretation of doubtful paragraphs and those about which a dispute arises.  Third, he establishes that the Cardinals are to deliberate about these, and that a vote is to be taken, and that the decisions are to be arrived at by a majority of the assembled Cardinal electors.

In other words, then, the papal law in UDG 5 establishes the Cardinal Electors, gathered together, to be the judge of cases which arise regarding the papal law itself. The only matter excluded, is that they cannot judge the very act of the election, that is, they cannot judge whether the act took place or not, only if the terms of the papal law were properly adhered to or followed.  The papal law, in UDG 4 already establishes that any non-compliance with it terms renders the election null and void, so, thus, there is no need for the Cardinals to decide upon the validity of the act itself.

Thus, it is sufficient that the Cardinals gather together, deliberate the matter of the “Team Bergoglio” scandal, and decide the case.  They would discuss whether the allegations are true and investigate them by asking the eye-witnesses, one another, whether UDG 81 was violated by vote-canvassing conducted by the supporters of Cardinal Bergoglio.

Canon 1530 guarantees the right to investigate charges

Canon 1530 guarantees the right of every Cardinal to have the allegations regarding the “Team Bergoglio” scandal investigated in Consistory.  This is because it grants to the judge of every contentious trial, the right and duty to investigate the facts of the controversy and rule upon them, at the request of any party to the case.  The text of that canon reads:

Can. 1530 — Iudex ad veritatem aptius eruendam partes interrogare semper potest, immo debet, ad instantiam partis vel ad probandum factum quod publice interest extra dubium poni.

Our unofficial English translation of which is:

Canon 1530 — The judge can always interrogate the parties to draw the truth out more aptly, nay he ought, at the insistence of a party and/or to prove a fact which is of public interest, to put it outside of doubt.

The judge in this case would be the entire College of Cardinal Electors, the parties in the case would be any single and all the Cardinal Electors and those accused of canvassing votes.  Thus any single Cardinal could demand the Sacred College to investigate the charges.  This would be done by interrogating collectively each individual Cardinal.  The kind of questions, that could be asked, are any whatsoever.  Canon 1531 requires that all questioned answer truthfully. The Cardinals could do whatever is proscribed for contentious trials in the 1983 Code of Canon Law (cf. canons 1501 ff.).

The solution is simple. The matter of “Team Bergoglio” can easily be resolved.  Why then is there any controversy at all? or Why do the supporters of “Team Bergoglio” argue so angrily against an investigation?

The Monstrosity of the Allegations against “Team Bergoglio” = Cardinal Bergoglio is not the Pope

Rome, Dec. 12, 1014:  The monstrosity of the allegations made by Dr. Austen Ivereigh in his new book, The Great Reformer: Francis and the making of a Radical Pope boggle the mind.  As this blog has noted in its previous report, the text of the narrative in chapter 9 of that book, implicates as many as 30 Cardinal electors in activity which seems likely to violate the papal law on Conclaves, Universi Dominici Gregis (here after UDG), promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

In that law, in paragraph 81, all forms of vote canvassing which include vote promising were punished with automatic excommunication (latae sententiae).  Yet canons 1329 and 1331 expand that penalty and indicate the consequences, even if the validity of the Conclave’s vote for Cardinal Bergoglio is not put in question by means of canon 171 §2, as this blog has speculated from the beginning. Let’s take a look then at these 2 canons.

The effects of Canon 1329: not only Cardinal Electors, but all accomplices

The From Rome blog has noted in its reports that the punishment was leveled only against Cardinals who could vote. However, the monstrosity of the allegation grows from the fact that Canon 1329 § 2 extends the effects of the penalty issued in UDG 81.

Canon 1329, § 2 reads, in the Latin:

Can. 1329§2. In poenam latae sententiae delicto adnexam incurrunt complices,qui in lege vel praecepto non nominantur, si sine eorum opera delictum patratum non esset, et poena sit talis naturae, ut ipsos afficere possit; secus poenis ferendae sententiae puniri possunt.

The official English translation of this, from the Vatican website is:

§2. Accomplices who are not named in a law or precept incur a latae sententiae penalty attached to a delict if without their assistance the delict would not have been committed, and the penalty is of such a nature that it can affect them; otherwise, they can be punished by ferendae sententiae penalties.

Thus, not only are the Cardinal Electors who sought vote-promises and those Cardinal Electors who promised votes in danger of excommunication from UDG 81, but also all those who assisted in this, such as:

  1. The aged Italian Cardinal, whom Ivereigh alleges tallied the votes, since without his assistance the conspiracy could not measure its success and by means of this count were encouraged to engage in the alleged illicit activities.
  2. A Cardinal-non-Elector, such as the alleged ring-leader, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, since in providing direction and organization for a conspiracy, the head of it assists in a manner in which the crimes could not have been committed as regards specific acts or their numerosity.  This is true even if the head of a conspiracy does not do the act which is criminalized.
  3. Any Cardinal, Bishop, Priest, or layman who assisted as messengers or solicitors between those asking for votes and those promising them.
  4.  Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, inasmuch as if he knew of the conspiracy, could have prevented it by signifying his unwillingness to allow such a campaign to go forward, which he could have done by merely threatening to reveal it during the Conclave; for knowledge of a conspiracy from which one benefits along with omission of all acts sufficient to bring such a conspiracy to naught or gravely obstruct it, is complicity before or during the act.  And no such conspiracy could succeed, without such at least tacit consent, since every Cardinal Elector upon being asked for his vote, could have confirmed the consent of Cardinal Bergoglio to such a campaign by asking him personally and directly.  That the alleged campaign go forward, therefore argues that it had some sort of consent from the Cardinal.

This might explain why in both denials of Dr. Ivereigh’s narrative, the spokeswoman for Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and the spokesman for the Holy Father, Fr. Frederico Lombardi, S. J., have explicitly denied that Cardinal Bergoglio was asked by any of the Cardinals for his consent to the vote-campaigning.

The enormity of this implication is seen when we apply the effects of Canon 1331.

Canon 1331 requires that an excommunicated Pope-elect never exercise or hold office

Canon 1331 explains the effects of all excommunications latae sententiae. In the official English version, from the Vatican website this canon reads:

Can. 1331 §1. An excommunicated person is forbidden:

  1. to have any ministerial participation in celebrating the sacrifice of the Eucharist or any other ceremonies of worship whatsoever;
  2. to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments;
  3. to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions whatsoever or to place acts of governance.

§ 2. If the excommunication has been imposed or declared, the offender:*

  1. who wishes to act against the prescript of §1, n. 1 must be prevented from doing so, or the liturgical action must be stopped unless a grave cause precludes this;
  2. invalidly places acts of governance which are illicit according to the norm of §1, n. 3;
  3. is forbidden to benefit from privileges previously granted;
  4. cannot acquire validly a dignity, office, or other function in the Church;
  5.  does not appropriate the benefits of a dignity, office, any function, or pension, which the offender has in the Church.

Which means, that if Dr. Ivereigh’s allegations are true, and if Cardinal Bergoglio had knowledge of the conspiracy and expressly or tacitly consented to it, then he would be incapable of holding the office of Pope, or making any acts which pertain to that office, such as nominate bishops, call Synods, or name Cardinals!

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* That penalties of excommunication which are leveled automatically (latae sententiae) by a general decree are imposed in the very act of the commission of the criminalized activity, can be had from canon 1314. Some canonists wish to restrict the term “imposed” [imponere] only to penalties leveled by a specific written decree naming the individual(s) — but that violates the signification of the Latin verb, which means “to place upon” (in the same sense as we say in English, “leveled”), not “declared or indicated in by a specific decree” — not to mention it also ignores the patent distinction made in canon 1314.  In any case, the Church could not endure such a situation, and the Sacred College of Cardinals in a special consistory would have the necessity, in virtue of the authority granted them in UDG 5, of resolving the matter and/or proceeding to a new election.