Wednesday, July 2, 2014


On June 30th I posted something about what Pope Francis had said, that "I follow what the cardinals asked." You can review that post HERE. Now Sandro Magister of the blog Chiesa takes up the question from a fascinating different perspective. Does it have merit?

Vatican Diary / "I follow what the cardinals asked"

The strictures of the pre-conclave on Francis's governance. Agreements connected to the election of a pope are illicit and invalid. But the actual practice comes very close

by Sandro Magister
VATICAN CITY, July 1, 2014 – "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."

This is established by the apostolic constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis," which regulates the election of the pope, issued by Saint John Paul II in 1996 and still in effect.

Historically "stipulations" or "electoral conditions" are defined as agreements among the cardinals gathered in conclave that aim to bind the future pontiff to certain acts that could restrict his freedom of action.

The first stipulation recorded in history seems to have been that of 1352 at the council of Avignon that saw the election of Innocent VI, who however declared it to be invalid.

And in effect a number of popes, after their election, have renounced the pacts stipulated with their former fellow cardinals.

Pacts that sometimes required the one elected to enact provisions for the actual good of the Church, but in other cases responded to personal or group interests. So that finally it was decided that they had to be formally prohibited.

The prohibition went into effect with the rules for conclaves promulgated by another canonized pope, Pius X, in the 1904 apostolic constitution "Vacante Sede Apostolica" that stated:

"We likewise prohibit that the cardinals, before proceeding with the election, should agree to stipulations or establish anything by common consensus, pledging to observe them if they are elevated to the pontificate. Such things, if they should take place 'de facto,' even under oath, we declare to be null and void."

This disposition - which however does not provide any penalty for those who violate it, as long as the new pope has full freedom with respect to these accords - has been reiterated by all the subsequent documents on the conclave, up to the one that, as we have seen, was issued by pope Karol Wojtyla.

Any stipulations agreed upon before or during a conclave are therefore not only formally prohibited as illicit, but are also practically inefficacious, because the one elected would not be bound to respect them even if he had agreed upon them.

In the accounts of recent decades it is nonetheless recalled that at the conclave of 1958 some cardinals of the Roman curia are alleged to have guaranteed that, in case of election, Venice patriarch Angelo Roncalli would choose as his secretary of state Monsignor Domenico Tardini. And this is what happened on the very evening of the election of John XXIII.

In the subsequent conclave of 1963 the central European cardinals are said to have backed the candidacy of Milan cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini with an "electoral condition" that included the continuation of the Council.

It is however recounted that in 1978 Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, if elected pope, would have to take into consideration the proposal to guarantee the position of secretary of state for one of the competing candidates, Cardinal Giovanni Benelli. While - also as the story is told - Venice patriarch Albino Luciani would be elected pope, as in fact took place, with the concomitant certainty that the dreaded Benelli would not be appointed secretary.

In the conclave that elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio it does not appear that there were any formal or sworn agreements among the cardinals.

Nonetheless Pope Francis has repeatedly professed himself to be bound by certain guidelines presented by the cardinals in meetings before the conclave.

He reiterated this recently in a more extensive manner than usual in the June 29 interview given to Franca Giansoldati of "Il Messaggero.".

In it he said:

"On the program [of ecclesiastical governance] I follow what the cardinals asked during the general congregations before the conclave. I go in that direction. The council of eight cardinals, an external organism, emerged from there. It was requested to help in reforming the curia. This moreover is not easy because there is a step forward but then it emerges that this or that must be done, and if before there was one dicastery there then become four. My decisions are the fruit of the pre-conclave meetings. I have done nothing alone."

To the question of whether he had followed a "democratic approach" in this, the pope responded:

"They have been the decisions of the cardinals. I do not know if it is a democratic approach, I would call it more synodal, even if the word is not appropriate for the cardinals.”

This is what pope Bergoglio has said. Judging by the appearances, there has been no condition or stipulation or call it what you will. But in essence the results have been close.

And the council of eight cardinals that Francis created in obedience to this mandate has just met at the Vatican.


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.


Cameron said...

The point is that such a pact cannot be binding. A pope can, of his own free will, continue on with it, but the point is that he doesn't have to. And if he does, it is only according to his will, not some operation of a promise.

JBS said...

I bet the holy Roman emperor is really running the show.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that Francis' election was canonically invalid? Father don't get my hopes up. But he isn't going back to that hot bus in Buenos Aires. Once they've seen Pariiiiii.

rcg said...

Seems like apples and oranges. Does not seem he was doing something quid pro quo, but was remembering something they wanted that he thought would be right to do.

John Nolan said...

Papal elections, like all elections, are political. The idea that the Holy Ghost guides the conclave into electing the right candidate is preposterous, as any reading of history will confirm.

I have been unfortunate enough to have lived through the worst pontificate of modern times, that of Paul VI. I do not cast aspersions on his personal holiness, but as a Pontiff he was an utter disaster.

However, the Holy Ghost does guide the Church and whoever is pope cannot change doctrine. I might have wished for someone better than Bergoglio, but it is unlikely he will be around long enough to cause as much damage as did Paul VI. And even if he is, the Church will recover, as she always does.

JBS said...

John Nolan,

Perhaps the Holy Ghost does guide the deliberations if the electors are open to His promptings.

George said...

John Nolan:

The electors may not necessarily respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Some will and some won't-which applies to any Catholic. We only have the assurance that the person who is chosen to be the Holy Father will be guided by the Holy Spirit in matters of faith and morals.