Whether, with all Cardinal electors defecting, the Roman Church has the right to elect the Pope?

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By Alexis Bugnolo

In High Scholasticism, the Catholic Theologians, Saints and Doctors of the Church often considered many questions which were speculative, either in regard to what was true but unknowable by man (being hid in the mystery of God) or what could be in a special circumstance which may or may not ever come to be. As founder of The Scholasticum, an Italian non profit dedicated to the revival of the Scholastic Method, I believe that the Scholastic Method can greatly assist the Church even in Her most pressing needs and extraordinary crises. For that reason, I present here a Disputed Question, the import of which may arise, if His Holiness Benedict XVI pass to the Lord before Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and then only if, at such a time, the Cardinals holding fast to the faulty notion that Benedict’s resignation was valid, fail to convene within 20 days to elect his successor. For in accord with the current law on Papal Elections, Universi Dominici Gregis, n.37  Cardinals who do not attend a Conclave with that period no longer have their votes counted. (All references are to the new Code of Canon Law, Latin text; and the papal law on electing the Pope, Latin test.)

Whether, with all Cardinal electors defecting, the Roman Church has the right to elect the Pope?

And it seems that she does not:

1. For only the Cardinals of the Roman Church have the right to elect the Roman Pontiff, according to what is stated in Canon 349, where it says cui competit ut electioni Romani Pontificis provideat ad normam iuris peculiaris.  Therefore, since the Roman Church includes those Cardinals, Bishops and Clergy who are not Cardinal Electors, they have no such right. Therefore, the Church of Rome has no right to elect a Pope, even if all the Cardinal Electors fail to elect one.

2. Likewise, since the College of Cardinals has no authority during a Sede Vacante to act other than what is provided for in special law, namely, in the Law for Papal Elections, Universi Dominici Gregis, and this according to Canon 359, which reads: Sede Apostolica vacante, Cardinalium Collegium ea tantum in Ecclesia gaudet potestate, quae in peculiari lege eidem tribuitur; It follows that neither does the Roman Church, because what is denied a superior, is denied also to the inferior. But the College of Cardinals is denied license to act in any other way that what is proscribed in law, therefore also the entire Church of Rome which is inferior to the College.

3. Likewise, since the papal law, Universi Dominici Gregis, n.4, expressly forbids any variation or alteration in law during a Sede Vacante, when it says: Sede Apostolica vacante, leges a Romanis Pontificibus latas non licet ullo modo corrigi vel immutari, neque quidquam detrahi iis sive addi vel dispensari circa partes earum, maxime eas, quae ad ordinandum negotium electionis Summi Pontificis pertinent. Si quid contra hoc praescriptum fieri vel attentari contigerit, id suprema Nostra auctoritate nullum et irritum declaramus; there is nothing which the Roman Church can do, even if all the Cardinals defect, since there is no provision in Canon Law for such action.

4. Likewise, the ancient right of the Roman Church to elect the Roman Pontiff was abrogated when that right was restricted to the Roman Clergy, and again, when that right was further restricted to the Cardinals of the Roman Church. Therefore, no such right exists.

5. Likewise, the ancient right of the Roman Church to elect the Pope was no more than a custom of the Roman Church. But laws of custom have no force if they have not been observed for 1300 years (cf. Canon 26). Therefore, the Roman Church has no such right.

ON THE CONTRARY:

It seems that she does:

1. By Apostolic Institution of the Apostle Saint Peter, the Roman Church undubitably enjoyed the right to elect the Roman Pontiff.  This right was restricted by special degree in the 7th century to the Roman Clergy, and in 11th century to the Cardinals of the Roman Church. Yet such a restriction which was prudential and a benefice cannot extinguish the apostolic right, in accord with the principle of law, which states that general prescriptions take precedence to special benefices: Generale praescriptum beneficio speciali anteferendum est (Theodosian Code: DEM AAA. VICTORIO P(RO)C(ONSULI) ASIAE). Therefore, in the case that there are no Cardinal Electors, whether in fact or by defection to an Anti-Pope, or to a Heretical or Schismatic Church, the apostolic right of the Roman Church revives. Therefore, the Roman Church has such a right in their absence.

2. Likewise, by the Code of Canon Law, which declares that all rights which have never been revoked remain in force, according to canon 4, which reads: Iura quaesita, itemque privilegia quae, ab Apostolica Sede ad haec usque tempora personis sive physicis sive iuridicis concessa, in usu sunt nec revocata, integra manent, nisi huius Codicis canonibus expresse revocentur; but the right to elect the Roman Pontiff was indubitably granted by the Apostle Saint Peter to the Roman Church, and that right has never been revoked. Nay, it is the very justification and inherent principle maintained when the Roman Synod in the 7th century restricted the exercise of that right to the Clergy, and when the Pope in the 11th century restricted it further to the College of Cardinals. This is confirmed by canon 6 §4, which restricts the abrogation of previous laws and rights to those things which are integrally expressed in the New Code. But such case, of having no Cardinal Electors, is not provided for. Therefore, it is not integrally included. Therefore, the rights to be referred to in such a case are NOT obrogated. Therefore, that right remains in force always to be revived.

3. Likewise, the ancient right of the Roman Church to elect the Roman Pontiff was ever held to have the force of law. This is self evident from history. But as canon 25, teaches: Nulla consuetudo vim legis obtinet, nisi a communitate legis saltem recipiendae capaci cum animo iuris inducendi servata fuerit. But, such is the case with the ancient right of the Roman Church, especially since when this right was restricted, the ancient reason for it was never denied or explicitly abrogated. This is proven by the fact that the Cardinals are still called Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Therefore, in the absence of all Cardinals, whether by bad will or substantial error, the right returns to the Roman Church.

4. Likewise, custom is the best interpreter of law (Canon 27). But, when Pope John Paul II was near death, the Cardinals and Bishops in his presence presumed his consent to use his signet ring to appoint Bishops which he had already considered for nomination. And no one in the Church objected to this. Therefore, it is right to presume the consent of a lawgiver, in cases in which he never foresaw. But such is the case of a substantial error in a papal resignation, when all the Cardinals fail to notice that substantial error and are consequently led not to convene in Conclave to elect a successor, but cleave instead to an Anti-Pope which they elected uncanonically during the lifetime of the Pope. Therefore, in such an unforseen and extraordinary case, the Roman Church has a right to have recourse to the ancient law.

5. Likewise, from the principle of subsidiarity, that, namely, when a higher or more dignified part of the body politic fail, the right to act passes to the subordinate authority. This is based on the teaching of Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them. But, with all the Cardinals failing, it would be wrong to deny what the lesser and subordinate organization, the Roman Church, can do. Therefore, if all the Cardinal Electors fail to act on account of an obstruction which they themselves cannot or fail to remove, the Roman Church, as the entity to which they belong by incardination, receives license to resort to the Apostolic right which it has ever enjoyed, in part or whole, of electing the Roman Pontiff.

6. Likewise, from the Code of Canon Law itself, in canon 28: nisi expressam de iis mentionem faciat, lex non revocat consuetudines centenarias aut immemorabiles; hence, since the apostolic right of the Roman Church is of time immemorial, and since that right is not expressly revoked in the present Code, it remains in force, in due circumstances. But the absence of all Cardinals Electors is not only a due circumstance, but one which puts the very constitution of the Church in the gravest danger, since the Office of Saint Peter is not only useful but necessary for the salvation of souls. Therefore, such a right cannot be considered abrogated by the new Code nor by the papal law on the Election of the Roman Pontiff, even if it seems to be expressly abrogated. Therefore, the Roman Church has such a right, in such circumstances.

RESPONDEO:

I RESPOND:  It must be said, that whether by good will or bad, the act of electing a Roman Pontiff during the life time of a validly elected Roman Pontiff is both a crime against God and against the unity of the Church. It is a crime against God, since Christ has ordained only one man to be pope at any given time. Its a crime against the unity of the Church, since it causes a de facto schism between those who adhere to the true Pope and those who adhere to usurper and false pretender.  Now, even if the Cardinals who do this, do so without malice, but operate under substantial error, nevertheless before the law they must be held to be guilty of the sin and crime of schism, whereby they lose every office and privilege in the Church.

Now the Roman Church, which has ever held the right by apostolic privilege of electing the Roman Pontiff, enjoys in a special way the promise and right granted by Our Lord when He declares that “the Gates of Hell shall never prevail against My Church.” But the Gates of Hell would prevail against the Roman Church if she were deprived of a validly elected Pope and forced to submit to a pertinacious public heretic, apostate or Freemason.  Therefore, the Church of Rome has the right to elect the Roman Pontiff, in the special case wherein all the Cardinal Electors fail to exercise their right to do so. But in accord with the papal law, Universi Dominici Gregis, this right must be exercised within 20 days after the death of the Roman Pontiff.

Therefore, if Pope Benedict XVI dies before Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and after 20 days no Cardinal Elector convenes in Conclave to elect his successor, the Roman Church, composed of all the Cardinals, Bishops and Clergy, incardinated in the Diocese of Rome, excluding those who adhere to the de facto schism, have the right to elect the Roman Pontiff.

For this reason, the arguments to the contrary are to be accepted, which sufficiently refute the arguments which contradict them.

 

 

 

 

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If Ivereigh is to be believed, was Bergoglio’s election invalid?

Denial

London, Nov. 25, 2014 — A remarkable letter to the editor, if ever there was one. A denial, which draws more attention, than the matter would otherwise merit.  In today’s Daily Telegraph Letter’s Page, print edition, Maggie Doherty, the press-secretary to Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, denies a key fact in the reporting by Austen Ivereigh, a British journalist who just published a book exposing a concerted effort among Cardinals of the Roman Church to canvass for votes on behalf of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in the days prior to the Conclave of March 2013, which elected the latter as successor to Pope Benedict XVI.  The on-line edition of the Telegraph has a short story about this, by John Bingham, which opens thus:

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, helped to orchestrate a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign which led to the election of Pope Francis, a new biography claims.

The Election of Pope Francis has seen a great deal more publicity than any in modern times, especially concerning the remarkable novelty of revelations coming from Cardinals themselves — remarkable, since according to papal law, to make such revelations is punished by automatic excommunication!

The papal law is Universi Dominici Gregis, promulgated by Pope John Paul II on the Feats of the Chair of St. Peter, February 22, 1996 A.D..  The key paragraphs regarding this excommunication are as follows:

  1. Those who, in accordance with the prescriptions of No. 46 of the present Constitution, carry out any functions associated with the election, and who directly or indirectly could in any way violate secrecy — whether by words or writing, by signs or in any other way — are absolutely obliged to avoid this, lest they incur the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See.
  2. In particular, the Cardinal electors are forbidden to reveal to any other person, directly or indirectly, information about the voting and about matters discussed or decided concerning the election of the Pope in the meetings of Cardinals, both before and during the time of the election. This obligation of secrecy also applies to the Cardinals who are not electors but who take part in the General Congregations in accordance with No. 7 of the present Constitution.

However, today’s denial regards another requirement of the papal law, regarding Conclaves: the express prohibition of canvassing for votes prior to the commencement of the Conclave.  John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution of 1996 makes that a high-crime, punishable by automatic excommunication.

  1. The Cardinal electors shall further abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons. If this were in fact done, even under oath, I decree that such a commitment shall be null and void and that no one shall be bound to observe it; and I hereby impose the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae upon those who violate this prohibition. It is not my intention however to forbid, during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning the election.
  2. I likewise forbid the Cardinals before the election to enter into any stipulations, committing themselves of common accord to a certain course of action should one of them be elevated to the Pontificate. These promises too, should any in fact be made, even under oath, I also declare null and void.
  3. With the same insistence shown by my Predecessors, I earnestly exhort the Cardinal electors not to allow themselves to be guided, in choosing the Pope, by friendship or aversion, or to be influenced by favour or personal relationships towards anyone, or to be constrained by the interference of persons in authority or by pressure groups, by the suggestions of the mass media, or by force, fear or the pursuit of popularity. Rather, having before their eyes solely the glory of God and the good of the Church, and having prayed for divine assistance, they shall give their vote to the person, even outside the College of Cardinals, who in their judgment is most suited to govern the universal Church in a fruitful and beneficial way.

The Reason for the Press-Secretary’s Denial is now manifest

If Maggie Doherty had not gone to the lengths of issuing a denial in such language, I would never have taken notice.  But now that she has, having consulted the papal law on Conclaves, it appears manifest why she has.  If Austen Ivereigh’s book contains verifiable evidence that any of the Cardinals who voted for Jorge Mario Bergoglio canvassed for votes in the manner forbidden, especially if he tacitly consented to this, then by that very fact (ipso facto) they fell under the penalty of excommunication in the same moment they agreed to do such and/or did such. And, if Bergoglio tacitly agreed (that is, had knowledge, and consented without opposing what they were doing), then he, too, would have been excommunicated prior to the Conclave.

Does this mean that the Papal election was invalid?

But if what  Austen Ivereigh alleges, did happen, would the election of Pope Francis be null and void?  The grounds for this are entirely different from those alleged in Antonio Socci’s best-selling book in Italy, Non è Francesco, (He is not Francis: i.e. he should not be called Pope Francis), which is based on the fact that on March 13, 2013, Bergoglio was elected by 5 votes, when the papal law only allows 4. Or the challenge now being brought in the Petition to the College of Cardinals, which regards 3 canonical questions which arise from the violations of the penalties imposed by the Second Council of Nicea, the Council of Trent, and Pope Paul IV.

Let us take a look at the papal law, again.  It is very important to note, what Pope John Paul II says in the previous paragraph, n. 78:

78. If — God forbid — in the election of the Roman Pontiff the crime of simony were to be perpetrated, I decree and declare that all those guilty thereof shall incur excommunication latae sententiae. At the same time I remove the nullity or invalidity of the same simoniacal provision, in order that — as was already established by my Predecessors — the validity of the election of the Roman Pontiff may not for this reason be challenged.(23)

Paragraph 78, regards the buying or selling of votes; which does not seem what Ivereigh has alleged; for when votes are bought and sold, then the validity of the election which would otherwise be worthy of doubt or challenge, is, according to Pope John Paul II’s law, free from ever being so challenged (which he does with the words: “I remove the nullity or invalidity of the same simoniacal provision”). Simony is the crime of buying or selling spiritual things, in this case, of votes, with the promise of monies paid in advance.

However, as regards, however, the excommunications leveled for canvassing, Pope John Paul II does not remove the nullity or invalidity of the election.

This leaves the question, whether the election of Pope Francis could be challenged now?

It seems at least possible, since it is not a question of the invalidity of an election on the basis of the fact that Cardinals were excommunicated on account of vote canvassing, but on account of a certain sort of coercion of the process to elect the Pope, which process must guarantee the liberty of the Cardinals to chose a Pope in a manner free from the deceits and maneuvers of worldly politics.

This doubt of the validity of the election is what seems to be implied by the Press-Secretary’s denial.  Because, if it were only a question of a Cardinal’s excommunication for violating secrecy or canvasing votes, he could easily appeal to Pope Francis to be pardoned and the excommunication lifted.  Indeed, what victorious candidate, now Pope, would not pardon the Cardinals who helped him get elected, if they did canvass for votes?  Thus, it certainly seems to the thoughtful reader, that there may be some more urgent reason for the denial. …  Cui prodest?

Addendum of Nov. 26, 3PM GT

I had a look at the general norms in the 1983 Code of Canon law regarding canonical elections and found some confirmatory information.  There in Canon 171, there are these stunning requirements for a valid election:

Can. 171 §1. The following are effected to vote:

1/ a person incapable of a human act;
2/ a person who lacks active voice;
3/ a person under a penalty of excommunication whether through a judicial sentence or through a decree by which a penalty is imposed or declared;
4/ a person who has defected notoriously from the communion of the Church.

§2. If one of the above is admitted, the person’s vote is null, but the election is valid unless it is evident that, with that vote subtracted, the one elected did not receive the required number of votes.

The importance of this Canon, I opine, is thus:  if what Ivereigh alleges in his book, is true, and the manner of canvassing votes is that penalized with automatic excommunication, then the Cardinals who did this, and Cardinal Bergoglio — if he expressly consented, as Ivereigh’s print edition says he did — would be excommunicated prior to the begining of the Conclave; and the election would be null and void, on the grounds that the 32 votes Bergolio received in the first round of voting (as reports allege, which votes are presumably nearly or mostly those who participated in the vote canvassing) would be null and void, coming as they did from excommunicated electors. That would make the 78 votes which Cardinal Bergoglio got in the final 5th vote, to be insufficient to elect him. (I am no canonist, so this is my opinion, though I have studied the tract on Canonical Censures at a Pontifical Instititute at Rome).

Postscript

Having carefully read the papal law, Universi Dominici Gregis, of Pope John Paul II, and that modification of Pope Benedict XVI, Normas nonnullas, I find it very curious that neither specifies explicitly who is eligible to be elected Pope. Even the 1983 code is silent. This is a serious deficiency, since the Bull of Pope Paul IV does specify this, and thus, if this matter is not included specifically in modern legislation, the terms of Pope Paul IV’s, Cum ex apostolatus officio, seem to remain in force. (If any canonists know, please leave a comment below, Thanks!).

FOLLOW UP REPORTS:

Nov. 27, 2014: Ivereigh + UDG 81 = A Radical Problem for Pope Francis