I have received several queries about what would happen if, before the upcoming consistory and the “creation” of the new cardinals, the Holy Father were to – quod Deus avertat – die.
Would the men whose names were already announced be able to participate in the subsequent conclave even though there wasn’t a consistory?
There was a spiffing novel about this scenario, by the way, by Ralph McInerny called The Red Hat [? click to order] which concerned an American liberal schism after an ambitious fellow named cardinal was not permitted to participate in a conclave. Lot’s of ecclesiastical hijinx and scandal from the creator of the Fr. Dowling detective series. [UPDATE 30 Jan 16:20 GMT - 177 people clicked the link and 6 have ordered the book from Amazon. FYI. Thanks!]
In short, though there is some dispute, the answer is “no”. They are not officially cardinals until the consistory. If they are not cardinals, they cannot be electors and cannot enter the conclave.
The present legislation governing conclaves, in John Paul II’s 1996 Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici gregis, says:
36. A Cardinal of Holy Roman Church who has been created and published before the College of Cardinals thereby has the right to elect the Pope, in accordance with the norm of No. 33 of the present Constitution, even if he has not yet received the red hat or the ring, or sworn the oath. On the other hand, Cardinals who have been canonically deposed or who with the consent of the Roman Pontiff have renounced the cardinal- ate do not have this right. Moreover, during the period of vacancy the College of Cardinals cannot readmit or rehabilitate them.
So, what does “created and published before the College” mean? In the Code of Canon Law we read:
Can. 351 §2. Cardinals are created by a decree of the Roman Pontiff, which in fact is published in the presence of the College of Cardinals. From the moment of publication, they are bound by the obligations and they enjoy these rights defined in the law.
There is a difference between the Pope’s announcement of the names of the men to be created Cardinals and the announcement and publication of their names in the presence of the College of Cardinals, that is, during a consistory.
The Pope must formally announce a man to be a cardinal in the context of a consistory, that is, a meeting of the College with the Pope.
That means that, provided the consistory takes place, the man is a cardinal even if he didn’t go to Rome to participate in the ceremonies, get the ring and red biretta, etc. But, the consistory has to take place.
So, say fictional Pope Sixtus VI (there will never be one, so it is safe to use his name) announces that he has the intention of making Fr. John Zuhlsdorf a cardinal (which will never happen, so it’s safe to use me as an example… or warning, as the case may be). After the universal uproar died down, but before the consistory, poor wise intelligent holy and perspicacious Pope Sixtus suddenly dies, no doubt from a poisoned fish which had been wrapped in a certain poisonous fishwrap. Fr. Zuhlsdorf remains the simple priest he was ever content to be. End of story, except that his name appears in footnotes a little more often in years to come. (This was the case with the late Hans Urs von Balthasar, by the way.)
If, however, Pope Sixtus VI survived the attempt on his life, but before the consistory, the fishwrap assassins were successful in the case of Fr. Zuhlsdorf, then Fr. Zuhlsdorf would have “Father” and not “Cardinal” on his tombstone.
But were both Pope and Father to survive, for we cannot assume the competence of those fishwrappers, and Pope Sixtus held the consistory but without Fr. Z (still recovering from the liberals’ attempt on his life), even though Fr. Z didn’t make it to Rome, he would nevertheless be Ioannes S.R.E. Cardinalis Zuhlsdorf with all the duties, rights and privileges, etc. Also, since at the time he was named Cardinal Fr. Z was a simple priest, he would have to receive episcopal consecration (unless he were dispensed by wise Pope Sixtus VI at Fr. Z’s request – Jesuits, I think, always make this request – and which Fr. Z will not make). And because we are having fun with this, Holy Pope Sixtus, would want to consecrate Fr. Z using the pre-Conciliar Pontificale Romanum in St. Peter’s Basilica in an event to be televised globally. Card. Z would also receive as his cardinalatial title in Rome La Cappella Della Madonna Dell ‘Archetto (unless a smaller church could be found… I think that’s the smallest official church in Rome, but memory is foggy on that piece of trivia). Card. Z would probably continue to write a blog, but that’s another kettle of fish.
In 2007, by the way, Pope Benedict changed a few details of matters cardinalatial and conclavistic with his Motu Proprio Constitutione apostolica. Also, for this consistory of 2012, the consigning of the red biretta and the ring and the written bull, will comes at the same time. Before, the ring was consigned during private consistory with a Mass sometimes called the “Ring Mass” and the red hat in another ceremony, a public consistory. Since the the distinction of private and public consistories is disappearing, so are some of the distinctions of ceremonies.
The point is: no ticky, no laundry…no consistory, no cardinalate.
In the meantime, at my feeder Cardinal Ray opines: