I think all of us scratch our head, in terms of the recent history of clerical sexual abuse, 1960's and forward and how bishops enabled it by not dealing appropriately with this scandal which was also a criminal act. How could bishops simply be pastoral with these miscreants, coddle them, give them cushy institutionalized therapy and return them to active ministry? And to do it repeatedly?
How can the pope disregard canon law concerning an unrepentant sinner promoting the enablement of abortion and in its most gruesome ways and supposedly call him a good Catholic and enables him to receive Holy Communion?
I suspect for bishops who enabled the sex abuse scandal, they felt the priest, while sinful in one area, did many other good things, so let's cut him some slack.
Can it be for this Pope, who agrees that abortion is murder and those who have it or enable it, hire hit men to do it, thinks President Biden's concern for migrants, the poor and climate trumps that or we can ignore one grave area because of the good in other areas?
Thus, you see how the sex abuse scandal and scandal in the Church is dealt with by winks and nods and eventually undermines the whole edifice.
This is the answer to the crisis of Eucharistic faith in Catholics today, not just better instruction!!! And I am not talking about returning exclusively to the 1962 Roman Missal. I am speaking about a return to the ethos of the 1962 Roman Missal, formal, ad orientem and receiving Holy Communion kneeling at the Communion railing and only from priests, deacons and liturgically vested installed acolytes. The vernacular is not the problem but some vernacular idioms or styles of music contribute to a lax theology of the Most Holy Eucharist.
It isn’t an academic issue. It is a loss of the sense of the sacred endemic to the manner in which the reformed Mass has deformed reverence, piety, wonder and awe! Start there, not just with poor catechesis! The bishops are clueless if they think the problem is catechetical!
“I think it shows a lack of catechesis over at least two generations now of people,” said Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown, Pennsylvania. “Also, when we look at the amount of people who are not practicing their faith, who have left the church and really have become a nondenominational person in any respect, I think that would be really emblematic of why the number is so high.”
THE ANCIENT ORDER OF THE LATIN MASS (TAOTLM) CELEBRATED TODAY IN SAINT PETER’S IN ROME TO A CAPACITY CONGREGATION OF ACTUALLY PARTICIPATING LAY CATHOLICS AND OTHERS OF DIFFERENT RANKS! YES, YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY!!!!! AND THIS: Saturday 30 October, 11:30 am, in the Archbasilica of St. Peter in the Vatican: Holy Mass at the Altar of the Chair celebrated by Msgr.Patrick Descourtieux, Office Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Foto e video del 10° pellegrinaggio internazionale Populus Summorum Pontificum: 4 - sabato 30 ottobre, ore 11:30: la Santa Messa all'Altare della Cattedra #sumpont2021
Continuiamo con i servizi dedicati al 10° pellegrinaggio internazionale Populus Summorum Pontificum.
Sabato 30 ottobre, ore 11:30, nell'Arcibasilica di San Pietro in Vaticano: la Santa Messa all'Altare della Cattedra celebrata da mons. Patrick Descourtieux, Capo Ufficio della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede.
I would love to read a transcript of this homily by
Msgr.Patrick Descourtieux, Office Head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith!
The catechism of the Church states that there are sacraments for the living and sacraments for the dead. There are only three sacraments for the dead, Baptism, Penance and Unction/Anointing of the Sick. Confirmation, Holy Communion, Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony are for the living.
What does that mean?
It refers to the soul/person being either dead or alive in Christ. Prior to baptism and the restoration of sanctifying grace (the real presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s soul which leaves an “indelible mark, even after the Holy Spirit is pushed out by the free choice of the sinner due to mortal sin) the soul/person is “dead” and incapable on their own merits of receiving eternal salvation in heaven only eternal damnation in hell—they are dead to Christ and eternal life in heaven.
Baptism by the merits of Jesus Christ alone, makes us alive in Him and the door is flung open for us to enter into heaven through the forgiveness of original and actual sins which Jesus alone accomplishes in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism which he has instituted. He alone restores sanctifying grace to our souls, necessary for salvation.
Being alive in Christ we are allowed then to receive the Sacraments of the living, Confirmation/Holy Eucharist/Holy Orders/Holy Matrimony.
If though, through mortal sinfulness, we return to the “death” of sanctifying grace in our souls after Holy Baptism, we must by God’s grace avail ourselves to the other Sacrament of Forgiveness for sins committed after Baptism, the Sacrament of Penance and in cases of extreme illness and nearness of death, the Anointing of the Sick. These sacraments restore the Baptismal gifts of sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ to the soul/person. These sacraments are for those dead to Christ due to mortal sin.
But the question remains, what is mortal sin? Serious matter, knowledge that is it a sin and seriously so and full consent of the will and usually with forethought and planning. If any one of these is lacking, the sin is not mortal or death inducing to the Sanctifying Grace in the soul (the life of the Holy Spirit) so necessary for our salvation. The sin remains a venial sin easily forgiven through an act of contrition, going to Mass or even receiving Holy Communion which is a medicine for sinners not a reward for saints.
In other words, mortal sin that is mortal sin for the sinner is exactly that “mortal” pushing out, by free will, the life of the Holy Spirit (sanctifying Grace) in the soul/person who commits it.
Often in confession, I hear people confessing serious matter, which for them, due to all three criteria for what mortal sin not being present, confessing something they think is a mortal sin but really isn’t. Certainly they are free to confess venial sins and the Church encourages it, but it isn’t necessary to do so.
Thus the question for President Biden’s confessor is, is his enablement of abortion and all its vile forms, a mortal sin for him because all three criteria for what a mortal sin are present or is something lacking in his commission of a “mortal sin” or the mortal sin of “omission” in a serious matter that reduces the sin to a venial sin only?
Did the pope exactly say that to President Biden, “you are a good Catholic and keep receiving Holy Communion”, or did he say…”if you are a good Catholic, keep receiving Holy Communion?” Who knows and we may never know.
For political and vengeance reasons (for Catholic votes and to get even with bishops questioning his catholicity) President Biden told the world in a sound byte that the pope told him he is a good Catholic and to continue to receive Holy Communion.
Because this sound byte can be used for manipulative reasons and to polarize and divide Catholics and their bishops in the USA, the Vatican should set the record straight and tell us the context of this statement and if it is accurate or was there that all important word “if?”
The Holy Father needs to keep his bishops in communion with him and should not punish them by backhanded or passive aggressive, snarky means.
To me it appears that if the pope actually said this to President Biden, knowing the divisions among the Bishops of the USA then it is an act of passive aggression towards bishops in communion with him and an untoward and immature way to deal with those bishops that make him mad.
And it plays out in the major medias as well as social media like this one.
This pope does seem to me to be passive aggressive and sometimes quite active aggressive, but only towards those he perceives as annoying him like the dubia cardinals but the same toward Archbishop Viganò who in my mind should have been and should be called into the papal office for a listening and talking to session because what Vigano is doing is unacceptable as is some of what this pope is doing if in fact he is doing it.
As much as this pope talks about listening and dialogue, he is notorious about not doing it and only with one group of people, the ones he considers legalistic, rigid and orthodox.
If Pope Francis thinks Catholics in manifest unrepentant sinfulness should receive Holy Communion as a “magic Cookie” to cure all their ailments and make them feel good despite their sins and crimes, then the pope should issue a formal statement confirming this teaching and in his name.
But if what the pope said to President Biden is true, there’s that pesky “if” again, then this is just one more thing this pope has done to polarize Catholics, bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious and the laity or is it the laity, women and men religious, deacons, priests, and bishops or should I have started with non-believers?
It still gives me chills to see the ancient order of the Latin Mass celebrated in my former parish, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta. This one was for October. When we restored the church around 1997 or so, we readjusted the historic altar so that Mass could be celebrated either facing the nave or facing the apse (which is the symbol for the liturgical east). I thought, then, the the revised Mass after Vatican II might one day be celebrated eastward or ad orientem never thinking the ancient order of the Latin Mass would be celebrated there regularly. Congratulations to Fr. Jacob Almeter pastor there and from Augusta also. Look at all the young people and all the altar boys. This form of the Mass seems to produce more vocations to the priesthood and religious life than the newer form. I wonder why?
The following comment on a post at Fr. Z’s WDTPRS alerted me to this video I post. I post it at minute 23 or so, but prior to that is an Ancient Order Latin Mass celebrated outdoors of this church in France in 1987! The active participation of the laity is stunning but after you read this comment watch what happens. Stunning:
In a nutshell, Elizabeth Scalia asks that the Vatican have every bishop of the world fill St. Peter's Square, lay prostrate on the cobblestone and everyone ad orientem along with the pope and repent publicly of their complicity in enabling the sex abuse of countless victims over the centuries.
The Vatican did have something similar on a smaller scale a couple of years ago. I remember when the now disgraced Archbishop Rembert Weakland was exposed as an unchaste homosexual and channeling (embezzling) huge amounts of diocesan funds to his lover, that he had a penitential service repenting. He should have been arrested for embezzlement and disciplined a bit more by the Church for breach of his vow of chastity and the criminal act of embezzlement.
It all strikes me as theater, though, and I just don't know about it.
Wouldn't it be better for the pope to reinstitute the more rigorous pre-Vatican II ascetical practices for both the clergy and laity as a penance for all of this? I am talking about fast and abstinence as it was prior to Vatican II, especially the Eucharistic Fast--maybe not from midnight but at least 3 hours before Mass in imitation of Christ's three hours of agony. I am speaking of the rigors of the pre-Vatican II fast for Lent. I'm speaking about ember days (Wednesdays) days of fast and abstinence.
None of these ascetical practices is theater. And it disciplines Catholics once again to take seriously fasting, abstinence and ascetical practices. The renewed purpose as penance for sex abuse in the Church and in the world.
And, moving forward, remove popes and bishops who have enabled and are enabling "winks and nods" against the moral law of God in all areas of Church teaching. That has returned with Pope Francis and with a vengeance under the guise of mercy and the Church as a field hospital.
Field hospitals often have to perform amputations to save the life of an injured person.
At Praytell, there is the typical inane discussion about how ancient the Ancient Order of the Latin Mass is. For academics who make infallible some sources of historical recollection, which is never infallible and not always historical, they want to discredit the Ancient Order of the Latin Mass as not always having been set in concrete over 1,500 years, more or less.
They are as dogmatic about this as liturgical historians were dogmatic about Mass facing the congregation from the earliest centuries which has since then been debunked. Mass ad orientem occurred very early in Church history both in the East and the West.
They also make silly comparisons between vocal responses of the laity, and early on in the west, certainly, like the east, chanted in some places but not in other places. They make inane statements about Holy Communion in the hand, which had a brief history to it and not anything like the recent tradition of receiving in the hand, which the Episcopalians actually have right.
I think there is legitimate concern about Communion under both kinds for the laity and in the East, once you are fully initiated even an infancy, through the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation) you regularly receive Holy Communion under both kinds from that point onward.
I was clairvoyant about the pandemic producing common chalice as the west now promotes Communion under both forms. But in the East, there is no receiving Holy Communion in the hand and no extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and the laity do receive both forms and normally by the priest with the use of a spoon and careful not to touch the mouth of the communicant who holds a kind of purificator under his chin as not to spill the Sacred Species.
However, the academics at Praytell miss the point entirely about the antiquity of the Ancient Order of the Latin Mass.
It has nothing to do with the various prayers associated with it which certainly developed and changed over the years prior to Trent standardizing the Roman Missal of the Latin Rite. It has nothing to do with the laity either chanting or not chanting some of their parts or the manner in which the Precious Blood is given or not given to the laity and the means by which this does or does not occur.
It has to do with the spiritual and liturgical ethos of the Ancient Order of the Latin Mass which is very much in continuity with the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Churches (and the East with multiple traditions that developed). And that ethos is vertical, transcendent and mystical. It is a foretaste on earth of the heavenly vision as the cultures of the east and west understood it and captured it within their own cultural milieu.
The Mass created after Vatican II and within the ideology of rupture, eradicated its inherited traditions and culture. It eradicated the ancient tradition of reverence and piety as well. The East did not do this even though I am sure prayers changed as did other things over the centuries, but the Eastern Rite and the Orthodox have maintained their ancient ethos and order. The west has not.
The BBC has an interesting piece on trying to save extraordinary Tradition in France. As I have written, they acknowledge that Pope Francis is a typical old guard 1960’s progressive Catholic who has tolerance and enablement of everything except pre-Vatican II sensibilities. In that regard these old guard progressives feel they need to crush pre-Vatican II sensibilities in the most pre-Vatican II authoritarian/dictatorial way possible.
Communities that celebrate with the Latin Mass have prospered. Now, Pope Francis has ruled that Catholics may only use the Latin Mass if their bishops agree to let them. Instead of a rule of tolerance for the Old Rite, wherever Catholics want it, there will be tolerance on a case-by-case basis. Many traditionally-minded Catholics believe that what is at stake here is the soul of the Catholic church with a liberal old guard with Francis at their head hoping to snuff out a rising generation of conservatives before they take over. In France, the more old-fashioned Catholics still often have very large families and, proportionately, many more of their sons become priests. In this edition of Heart and Soul, France-based correspondent John Laurenson, takes us into the extraordinary world of traditional Catholicism in France. We go to Versailles, the former seat of the ardently-Catholic monarchy, that is today the unofficial capital of the ‘tradi’ movement. John meets young Catholics to find out what attracts so many young believers to the Old Rite.
And then this is from Poland copied from Rorate Caeli:
VERY IMPORTANT NEWS AND REVELATIONS ON TRADITIONIS CUSTODES IN POLAND.
From the Messainlatino Blogspot
Cardinal Nycz comments on Traditionis Custodes: it was acknowledged in the Congregation that the issue was dealt with too harshly.
Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz’s statement on the discussions held recently on “Traditionis Custodes” at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The Metropolitan of Warsaw said that “It was acknowledged in Congregation that the question had been dealt with too harshly and instead of serving unity, in individual cases, it may well make some leave the Church.”
Upon his return to Poland after the ad limina visit to the Vatican, Cardinal Nycz shared his observations about his Vatican sojourn in a interview with KAI (Polish Catholic News Agency). He also answered questions with regard to the procedure of the meetings, as well as to questions raised during many conversations with the functionaries of the Roman Curia and individual Congregations. The Primate admitted that during his visit, the Polish bishops also discussed Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio “Traditionis Custodes” , which radically limited the possibility of celebrating Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
“There was a very interesting discussion in the Liturgical Congregation concerning the Tridentine Liturgy. The bishops asked questions, mainly in relation to parish churches, where this liturgy could still be celebrated, in conformity with the Motu Proprio “Traditionis Custodes” if there was such a need in Poland in the future.”
Jonathan Day of Praytell asked a good question about UTC’s (Unreformed Traditional Catholics, a wonderful term I use in the most positive, reformed and redeemed way) and if they would not allow the Modern Order of the Ancient Mass (MOOTAM) if a pope abrogated it? What he meant was a similar arrangement that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI allowed for the Ancient Order of the Ancient Mass (AOOTAM) that a future pope would allow for the MOOTAM if the AOOTAM became the normal Mass of the Church once again.
However, I think a third way is possible and most desirable and what Pope Benedict envisioned for the future. It won’t happen under this Uber progressive 1970’s pope we have now, but it could in the future if common sense prevails in the papacy and the Church, which I think the Holy Spirit of surprises will provide, not that I am a gnostic or anything like that.
And this new Missal that could supplant both the 1962 and 1970’s versions of the Roman Missal is staring us right in the eye and it is the Roman Missal called the Ordinariate’s Divine Worship, the Missal.
I am not say that that Missal should supplant the two missals I mention. But the sensitivities this Roman Missal, which is the reformed Mass of Vatican II, has toward tradition, especially that of the Anglican Communion’s High Church “Mass.”
It is basically a Tridentine Mass in the vernacular with archaic English that becomes a sort of “sacral” liturgical language.
I am not saying the new Missal should have a “sacral” vernacular language, our tradition is Latin that takes on this role.
I am suggesting that there be a new Roman Missal that allows more options explicitly mandated in the new Reformed Roman Missal:
The Traditional Ancient Order of the Mass which includes:
The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar
The rubrics for the approach to the altar afterward with the greeting “The Lord be with you” prior to the Collect.
The normal liturgy of the word with the modern Missal (and by way of exception the 1962 missal’s lectionary) with a Calendar more like the Ordinariate’s which is more like the Tridentine calendar.
The offertory prayers either in the traditional format with its rubrics or the modern version.
Following the Preface Dialogue, the order of Mass is exactly as the 1970’s Missal, except the reenchantment of the rubrics for the Eucharistic Prayer, which are only two, the Roman Canon for use on Sundays and the option of the Eucharistic Prayer II for weekdays (which is the Ordinariate’s compromise).
The option of a soft spoken or out loud Eucharistic Prayer.
The option of the Last Gospel.
The options in the Requiem Mass mandated for funeral Masses, meaning shorter prayers at the foot of the altar, no Glory be… and the Lamb of God with the changed endings for funerals.
Would any of this be so difficult?
Finally clear options for ad orientem and Holy Communion kneeling and at the altar railing.
This is from the Deacon’s Bench. I’m not sure how to deal with this although I have always taught, especially in Macon where a homosexual teacher in Macon’s private school was fired for his same sex “marriage”, that when it comes to Mass and the Sacrament of Penance, there is no one at the doors of the Church checking people’s sexual identity.
Mature Catholics know when they sin sexually and God gives them a conscience to pursue repentance and holiness.
Apart from using the term “fidelity” to all that the Church teaches in the areas of faith and morals, I have seldom preached on homosexuality or most sexual sins. I do that in a class setting where people can ask questions.
But this is what we all know. The question is how to make Catholics, young, old and in between know that we are to despise sin but love the sinner?
The biggest disconnect involves LGBT rights. About 71% of youths said they care about gay rights, but feel that 44% of religious communities care about the same issue, according to the survey of 10,274 people across the country representing various faiths.
…Many young people consider themselves spiritual—the Springtide study found that 78% described themselves as such, even if they don’t identify with an organized religion….
…Jesse Brodka, a 22-year-old special education teacher in Buffalo, N.Y., says he is frustrated by many social teachings of the Catholic Church but remains a part of it. “It’s something I wrestle with,” says Mr. Brodka, who attended Catholic schools and leads the local music ministry at the Jesuit College he attended.
“I hear what priests and pastors say at the pulpit and say to myself, ‘No, that is not what I believe in my heart,’ ” he says, referring to messages that people who are gay need to be “guided” away from homosexuality.
He says he is reluctant to wear a cross, even though he feels a strong connection to Jesus, because he is afraid people will think he is judging them. “The fact that the Christian faith has become a symbol of judgment speaks to that gap between religious organizations and the non-judgment that we value as young people,” he says.
THE ELECTION OF THE POPE IN THE TENSION BETWEEN CENTER AND PERIPHERY. A PROPOSAL
by Walter Brandmüller
In a Church that inasmuch as it is Catholic embraces the whole world, the tension between the Roman center and the geographical periphery is activated in a special way when a pope is to be elected. This is because, as successor of Peter, the pope is both bishop of Rome and supreme pastor of the universal Church.
After, with Pope Nicholas II in 1059, the election of the pontiff had been reserved for Roman cardinals, the rank of cardinal and therefore of elector was often given also to abbots and bishops of important European sees. The situation remained such even after the great missionary expansion into the new world that began in the 15th century, until Pius IX and Leo XIII conferred the cardinal purple respectively in 1875 on Archbishop John McCloskey of New York and in 1905 on Archbishop Joaquim Arcoverde de Albuquerque Cavalcanti of Rio de Janeiro.
These two appointments initiated a process that led to a significant increase in the number of cardinals, previously set at 70 by Sixtus V. In fact, they marked the beginning of the internationalization of the sacred college, which with Pope Francis has gone even further toward the periphery of the Church, to the point of now numbering thirty cardinals from Asia and Oceania. On the other hand, the occupants of traditional European cardinalate sees such as Milan, Turin, Venice, Naples, Palermo, Paris have been left without purple. It would be useful to investigate - also for ecclesiological reasons - the motivations and intentions of the anti-European maneuver that is evident here.
The number of cardinals with the right to vote in conclave was brought to 120 by John Paul II. This increase was and is aimed at expressing the geographical extension of the Church also through the number and countries of origin of the cardinal electors. One effect, however, is that the 120 electors, insofar as they come from the periphery, often meet for the first time in the consistories preceding the conclave and so know little or nothing about the college of cardinals and therefore about the candidates, thus lacking a fundamental prerequisite for responsible voting in the conclave.
To this is added the evident tension between the Roman center, meaning the pontifical curia, and the local Churches, which, sometimes lived out in a rather emotional way, has a certain influence on the vote.
These observations raise a series of questions relative to the conception and structure of the college of cardinals, which also concern the electors and those eligible for the papacy. I will now try to give a few answers to these questions, with a look at history.
The college of cardinals has its origin in the clergy of the city of Rome, which consisted of the bishops of the adjacent suburbicarian dioceses, the priests of Roman “titulus,” and the deacons of the city’s deaconries. It was Pope Nicholas II, after the turbulence of the “saeculum obscurum,” who for the first time established juridical norms for the election of the pontiff with his bull “In nomine Domini” of 1059. According to these provisions, the cardinal bishops, after having consulted the cardinal presbyters and cardinal deacons, elected the pope, after which the rest of the clergy approved, together with the people, by acclamation.
That the papal ministry is linked to the episcopal see of Rome follows from the fact that the first of the apostles suffered martyrdom and was buried in this city. But that Peter worked in Rome, suffered martyrdom there, and was buried there is not simply the result of chance. The believing eye sees in this the hand of divine Providence. In any case, Peter’s martyrdom and burial in Rome are credited with essential theological importance. The bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch was already convinced of this back between the first and second centuries, and in his widely discussed and controversial letter to the Church of Rome he wrote that this latter presides over the “agápe,” a word that should be correctly translated as “Church,” as shown by the use of the same word in the other letters of Ignatius, when for example he writes: “The ‘agápe’ of …” followed by the name of the city “greets you.” Here, however, “agápe” is written without a city name, thereby defining the Church in general, over which the community of Rome presides.
In a similar way, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, around 200, attributed to the Church of Rome, since it was founded by Peter and Paul, a “potentior principalitas,” meaning a strong pre-eminence. In summary: the link between the Petrine ministry and the city of the tomb of the apostles - not as capital of the empire - is an original conviction of the Church, and in fact until the 16th century was never questioned.
The college of cardinals, therefore, has its roots in the clergy of the city of Rome and so, starting with Nicholas II, it elects the bishop of Rome, who is at the same time also the supreme pastor of the whole Church.
Up to now the popes have always tried to meet these historical requirements by assigning a titular Roman church to the new cardinals from various continents and thus incardinating them into the clergy of the city of Rome. In this way the world’s important episcopal sees are more firmly linked to the center. Yet such an aim by no means requires this ritual fiction, since the imposition of the pallium by the pope on the occupants of the metropolitan sees throughout the world is already enough to express the bond with Rome and the unity of the universal Church.
It is therefore a matter of harmonizing in a well-considered way the two aspects of the Petrine ministry, that of the local Church and that of the universal Church, also in the way in which the election of the pope takes place. One starting point for reflections in this sense could be the consideration that the right to vote and eligibility, or voting rights active and passive, do not necessarily go together.
According to the rules currently in force, at the age of 80 the cardinals lose their active right to vote, but strangely not the passive one. Moreover, until today it has almost never happened that anyone not a cardinal has been elected pope. The last time was in 1378, with the election of Bari archbishop Bartolomeo Prignano, who chose the name of Urban VI.
We must then ask how the tension between center and periphery could find an adequate solution in the way the pope is elected.
First of all it should be remembered that the pope is not “also” bishop of Rome, but the opposite is true: the bishop of Rome is also pope. When he is elected, therefore, the successor of Peter is elected to the Roman chair. And this implies that the election originally belongs to the clergy and people of Rome.
The election of the pope, however, also concerns the whole Church. And it is evident that before and after a conclave more thought is given in general to the universal character of the Petrine ministry than to the needs and interests of the local Roman Church. It follows that the popes consider their duties as bishops of Rome almost secondary, delegating a cardinal vicar, that is, the titular of the basilica of Saint John Lateran - the pope’s cathedral - to carry out their episcopal duties.
To reflect in a particular way the universal aspect of the Petrine ministry, it has been proposed that the right to vote in conclave be granted to the presidents of national episcopal conferences. But it must be forcefully reiterated that episcopal conferences in no way constitute a structural element of the Church, and that such a solution would not meet the requirements raised by the bond between the See of Peter and the city of Rome. The solution to the problem must therefore not be sought in any sort of extension of the right to vote in conclave.
It could instead be found in the already mentioned decoupling of the active and passive right to vote, in practice reserving the right to vote to a very streamlined and truly Roman college of cardinals, at the same time widening the circle of the eligible to the universal Church. Another advantage of this method would be that a pope could no longer so easily influence the choice of his successor by creating cardinals in a targeted manner.
Of course, the circle of eligible candidates should not include the entire episcopal body. It would be necessary to formulate objective, institutional criteria for eligibility, so as to limit in a sensible way the circle of papabili. One of these criteria should be, without exception, that the candidate shall have spent at least five years in a senior position in the curia of Rome. This would guarantee the voters a prior knowledge of the candidates through personal relationships, and the candidates a direct experience of the structures, procedures, and problems of the Roman curia. This would limit the circle of candidates while at the same time taking into account the universal aspect of Petrine primacy. The need for more than superficial knowledge and experience of the Roman curia appears evident if one considers the tasks of the cardinals indicated by canons 349, 353, and 356 of the code of canon law, regarding the assistance they provide the pope, alone or in consistory, by word and deed.
As for the number of electors, it would not be difficult to reduce this, since they would no longer have to be a broad representation of the universal Church, which would already be guaranteed by the provision regarding the eligible. The number of electors could be comfortably moved back below the 70 set by Sixtus V.
Indeed, it is all too evident that the current number of 120 cardinal electors, many if not the majority of whom have no experience of Rome, poses various problems. For a college in which the preference is to make cardinals of the heads of peripheral dioceses, it is practically impossible to carry out the aforementioned tasks adequately, even under the conditions allowed by modern communication technologies.
It must also be taken into account that in certain circumstances it may be difficult or even impossible for some electors to travel to Rome. Difficulties similar to those that obstructed the participation of bishops of communist countries in Vatican Council II could impede the participation of cardinals in a future conclave. Others could even make it impossible for cardinals from the “periphery” to arrive in Rome promptly, for example, natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, epidemics, as well as political turmoil or wars. For these and other similar reasons, given the large number of cardinals who have the right to vote and at the same time the obligation to participate, an election carried out by an “incomplete” college could be contested, with serious danger for the unity of the Church.
Faced with the hypothesis of such an eventuality, at least the question of a possible “quorum” for the vote to be valid should have been raised and defined. If, on the other hand, the electors were already in place because they were part of a really Roman college, there would be no need to fear such a scenario.
In short, given the current composition of the college of cardinals, in which most of the electors are geographically dispersed, do not know each other and know even less about the real demands of the Petrine ministry, an essential prerequisite for responsible voting is missing. With one very insidious consequence.
In such an electoral college, everything ends up depending on those opinion leaders, internal and external, who succeed in making their chosen candidate known to the less informed and in mobilizing their support. This leads to the constitution of blocs, where individual votes are like blank proxies granted to enterprising “grand electors.” These behaviors follow norms and mechanisms studied in sociology. When instead the election of the pope, successor of the apostle Peter, supreme pastor of the Church of God, is a religious event that should be governed by rules of its own.
That in this context more or less abundant streams of money flow from rich Europe to poorer areas of the world, so that their cardinal electors in the conclave feel obliged to the donor, is a known reality, even if morally reprehensible. It may have been such considerations that prompted John Paul II to keep excommunication in force against these modern forms of simony. At the same time, however, that pope stated that an election that took place in this way would still be valid, in order to guarantee legal certainty and therefore the unity of the Church (“Universi dominici gregis,” no. 78).
The reflections presented here are aimed at bringing out more clearly, even in the way the election takes place, the sacral character of the papal ministry, which is constitutively instituted in the Church of Jesus Christ, which must not forget that it is “in” the world , but not “of” the world.