Some notes about the upcoming conclave

Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law states: “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.”

So, since the Pope has not died, there will not be the period of mourning and Masses, the Novemdiales, the day of death being counted as one of the days.

When the Pope resigns, at 8 p.m. Rome time on 28 February, there will be a state called “sede vacante”, “the see being empty” . I remind priests not to say the Pope’s name in the Eucharistic Prayer after that.

Most curial offices cease and must be reconfirmed. One office that continues is that of the Major Penitentiary, because his office concerns internal forum matters and, thus, the care of souls in urgent situations.

Governance of the Church devolves to the College of Cardinals meeting in Congregations, General and Particular. All cardinals, even those over 80, who are not legitimately impeded (by weather, illness, government interference, etc.) should attend, though older men can get permission not to. The General Congregations are lead by the Dean or Sub-Dean, or the senior Elector. The powers of the Congregations are limited by what the previous Pope prescribed. Particular Congregations are smaller groups of cardinals tasked to handle pressing needs of governance. This includes the Camerlengo, and a Cardinal Bishop, Cardinal Priest and Cardinal Deacon who are chosen by lot from the electors (cardinal under 80) who are in Rome. They have terms of three days. A Particular Congregation can’t overturn the work of a previous Particular Congregation.

Ordinarily a conclave begins on the 15th day after the death of the Pope, though it can be pushed back to 20 for serious reasons. Given that there is no Novemdiales period, the conclave could start around 9-10 March.

After the electors take their oaths, those who cannot vote are expelled from the conclave (the famous “extra omnes”). Only a few assitants can stay in the conclave’s confines. Nine electors are chosen by lot to work as Scrutineers (who do the tabulation and watch over the ballots as they are delivered), Infirmarii (who take ballots to and from cardinals who may be ill within the conclave) and Revisers (who check the count and make sure the voting was done right). When ballots are counted, they are strung together by a thread. They were once burned, famously with wet straw to produce black smoke if there was no election. In 1963 chemicals were added to make really dark or light smoke. In 2005 the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica were rung to signal an election.

There is one ballot on the first day, two on subsequent days.

Benedict XVI changed some of the voting rules. John Paul II had elminated the 2/3 majority rule in 1996 and Benedict XVI restored it in 2007.

Benedict XVI was elected after 4 ballots.

Benedict will not participate in the conclave to elect his successor (wow.. it is strange to write that).


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  1. Jeannie_C says:

    What will Pope Benedict’s title be after his resignation? As he cannot vote in the conclave does this mean he is not a Cardinal and becomes Father Joseph Ratzinger once again?

  2. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Ordinarily a conclave begins on the 15th day after the death of the Pope, though it can be pushed back to 20 for serious reasons. Given that there is no Novemdiales period, the conclave could start around 9-10 March.”

    Interesting, I would read UDG 37, 49 as setting the conclave clock ‘arunning from the VACANCY of the Apostolic See, not from the announcement of resignation. Have I missed something?

  3. Lucas says:

    I would assume (please correct me if I’m wrong) he goes back to Cardinal Ratzinger.

    The only reason he can’t participate(again correct me if I’m wrong) is because he is to old.

  4. Jason Keener says:

    I imagine that after Pope Benedict’s resignation takes effect, he will still be called Pope Benedict XVI, Holy Father, and Your Holiness. He will probably have the title of Bishop Emeritus of Rome. I see no chance that he will be called Cardinal Ratzinger or Father Ratzinger or Joseph.

  5. Prof. Basto says:

    The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales are saying, according to CNN, that the Pope will automatically revert to being called Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once the resignation takes effect.

    I think this information is wrong. Angelo Correr, the former Gregory XII, had to be RECREATED a Cardinal in order to rejoin the Sacred College. The Council of Constance granted him the title of Bishop of the Suburbicarian See of Porto, precedence immeditately after the future Pope to be elected, and the title of perpetual legate of Ancona.

    Also, when Benedict XVI’s resignation becomes effective, nothing in present law leads to the conclusion that he will at once rejoin the College of Cardinals.

    If the precedent of Gregory XII is followed, Benedict XVI may be recreated a Cardinal, perhaps given a suburbicarian See (is one avaliable?), and given special precedence above the Cardinal Dean.

    He will, probably, revert to the use of his baptismal name “Joseph Ratzinger”, as the former Gregory XII, Angelo Correr, did. But Pietro da Morrone, the former Celestine V, after his abdication, continued to be known as Celestine, or as Peter Celestine, and is today inscribed in the cathalogue of the Saints as “St. Celestine V”.

    Also, Pope Benedict will be the first Pope to resign after the post-Vatican II reforms of Canon Law that created the positions of Bishops emeriti. Before the 20th century reforms, there was no such thing as a Bishop emeritus. A Bishop could resign, but that was not normal; a Bishop was expected to lead his See unto death. Now, all that has changed: modern Canon Law provides for the retirement of Bishops, and to that end Bishops must tender their resignations to the Pope when they turn 75. Once the resignation on age grounds is accepted, and sometimes also in cases of resignations on health grounds, the retiring Bishop gains the title of Bishop emeritus. Accordingly, it is possible that Pope Benedict, once his resignation enters into force, will be considered a Pope emeritus, or Bishop emeritus of Rome.

  6. tgarcia2 says:

    or perhaps him not participating is due to him not wanting to show undue influence?

  7. frodo says:

    Pray for the Cardinals and for the Pope. Pray for calm in the Church as this transition occurs. Or as one of my friends said, Keep Calm and Pray On.

  8. Prof. Basto says:

    I agree with Dr. Peters.

    Unless the Law is changed, the clock only starts running once the Holy See becomes vacant.

    We have at present a full and perfect Declaration of Resignation, written and signed on February 10th, 2013 and read in the presence of an Ordinary Public Consistory of Cardinals on February 11th, 2013, but that Declaration itself prescribes that the resignation will only become effective on February 28th.

    Thus, although the juridical act of the abdication has already been performed, although the letter has been delivered to Cardinal Sodano, and although the canonical requirements for the resignation (freedom of the decision and proper manifestation) are already met, it will only produce its legal effect at 20:00 hours Rome Time on February 28th, 2013. At that point, the See of Rome will become vacant at the stroke of the hour, and from that moment the “clock” of the procedures prescribed by the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis will start to run.

    So we could have the Conclave starting between Friday, March 15th and Wednsday, March 20th.

    March 24, 2013 is Palm Sunday, and Easter will fall on March 31. Then we start to wonder about dates for the Coronation/inauguration and dates for the Enthronement at the Lateran… Would the Pope preside at Holy Week liturgies before the solemn beggining of his pastoral ministry?

  9. Darren says:

    Thank you Supertradmum for posting the short wsj article.

    I imagine he will stay out of the spotlight as not to take any attention away from his successor or for it to seem he still has any authority as the Supreme Pontiff. I expect he will retire to a life of private prayer, perhaps not again leaving the Vatican. If he should pay a visit to his home of Bavaria I expect it will be done it total privacy. This would all be done out of respect for his successor.

    One thing that I thought of, and it sounds so weird, is that he will have to be obedient to his successor. Not that his successor will require anything unusual of him, but it just sounds so weird to think that the man who is Pope, who all the churches owes obedience, will soon have to be obedient to one who once was obedient to him. This, in and of itself, is an act of great humility.

    I believe that the great wisdom of our Holy Father, in this act, will be seen in the years to come. He has done, and will continue to, great things for the church. As Fr. Mitch Pacwa stated, on EWTN this morning, perhaps he will do his greatest acts for the church through his life of intense prayer once he is no longer the pope.

    May God Bless Benedict XVI and may we be blessed with another great pope after him!

  10. robtbrown says:

    Prof Basto,

    My guess is that he will be Emeritus. That avoids the Cardinal problem as well as the Suburbicarian See.

  11. Ed the Roman says:

    “Benedict will not participate in the conclave to elect his successor (wow.. it is strange to write that).”

    Well, not participating in the election of one’s successor has always been the usual practice. ;-)

  12. RuralVirologist says:

    Pope John Paul II still gets called Pope John Paul II. I think the same should apply to Pope Benedict XVI, even though it’s obvious to everyone (except new traditionalists who refuse to accept his resignation) that he’s no longer the reigning pope.

    The Dutch monarchy works differently. Queen Beatrix has recently announced that she will resign on 30 April 2013. She goes back to being Princess Beatrix until her death, after which she will be called Queen Beatrix again.

    The current Dean and Vice-dean of the College of Cardinals are both beyond voting age. Will they still perform these roles? If not, who will announce the new pope?

  13. robtbrown says:

    I have to wonder whether the age of 80 prohibition would apply to BXVI if he wanted to participate in the conclave (which it seems he doesn’t) . The law explicitly applies to Cardinals, which he will not be if he is Emeritus Bishop of Rome.

  14. robtbrown says:

    Also: I wonder whether Msgr Guido Marini will be made a bishop in the next few weeks.

  15. Dave N. says:

    I imagine that after Pope Benedict’s resignation takes effect, he will still be called Pope Benedict XVI, Holy Father, and Your Holiness.

    I think history has taught us that there should be absolutely no ambiguity as to who is the legitimate successor of Peter. One pope at a time, please.

  16. While I was saddened to hear of the Pope’s decision, nevertheless, I am sure that he is doing this for the best interest of all who love him. As the contemplative Pope in the Vatican, he will be an even more powerful witness to the Faith, and will be a great comfort to his successor. I am sure whoever the new pope will be, he will visit Benedict from time to time for solace and wise counsel. This is a great blessing for the Roman Catholic Church and for all Christians.

  17. Fr. Selvester says:

    One small correction, Father. In “Universi Dominici Gregis” Bl. John Paul II did not eliminate the need for a 2/3 majority for election. Rather, if after a prolonged period (33 ballots or nine days because there is only one ballot on the first day and four on succeeding days) there is no election then the pope could be elected by simple majority. However, in June, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI by Motu Proprio amended this to say that regardless of how many ballots it takes the required majority needed for election will stand at 2/3.

  18. robtbrown says:


    Cardinal Tauran is the Protodeacon, and he has the Habemus papam responsibility.

  19. acardnal says:

    robtbrown wrote, “Also: I wonder whether Msgr Guido Marini will be made a bishop in the next few weeks.

    I had the same thought. He has been a faithful liturgical MC for the Holy Father.

  20. RuralVirologist says:

    Ah … thanks robtbrown … I must brush up on my conclavology! Protodeacon it is!

  21. Joan A. says:

    “Benedict XVI changed some of the voting rules. John Paul II had eliminated the 2/3 majority rule in 1996 and Benedict XVI RESTORED it in 2007.”

    Thank God for this, it could be our salvation in the choice of the new pope, or more precisely, in the elimination of certain possibilities.

  22. Imrahil says:

    unless the law is changed

    The Pope can still do so until Feb 28 8 p.m., and if you bear my loud thinking (you need not read, after all)… I see good reasons for doing so.
    If, God prevent, the Pope had died immediately, the conclave had to be convened within 15 days, and in the same tame a major funeral would have had to be organized. Now that we know the end of his term more than two weeks before it actually occurs (sub condicione Jacobi, but God give it may be fulfilled), why not convene the conclave well within the vacancy (that of course), but perhaps only a few days after its beginning?

    Frankly said, the sooner a vacancy is over, the better.

  23. acardnal says:

    Below from the Vatican Information Service. Some interesting stats on the composition of the Cardinal electors.

    Vatican City, 11 February 2013 (VIS) ? The conclave to elect the successor of Benedict XVI will be regulated by the “Ordo Rituum Conclavis” established by John Paul II’s apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis”, para. 27. The Cardinal Camerlengo, who has a fundamental role during the Sede Vacante period, is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, appointed by Benedict XVI on 4 April 2007.

    The Cardinal electors, by their continents of provenance, will be 61 Europeans, 19 Latin Americans, 14 North Americans, 11 Africans, 11 Asians, and 1 from Oceania. These figures may vary depending on the date that the conclave opens: for example, Cardinal Walter Kasper will turn 80 on 5 March. The country with the greatest number of Cardinal electors is Italy, with 21. Sixty-seven of the electors were created by Benedict XVI and the remaining 50 by John Paul II.
    One of John Paul II’s innovations regarding the period of conclave is that the Cardinal electors?of whom there will be 117 on 28 February?will be housed in the Vatican residence Casa Santa Marta, which is independent from the place where they vote, the Sistine Chapel.

    The Cardinal electors must remain in the Vatican during the entire period of conclave, and no one can approach them when they move from the Sistine Chapel to their place of residence or vice versa. All forms of communication with the outside world are prohibited. As in the past, the Sistine Chapel stove will be used to burn the ballots after each vote.”

  24. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Kaspar is eligible. See UDG, or, are we missing something here?

    Also, gotta think about the Prof’s comments some more, but I’m leaning toward thinking that B16 will be Cdl Ratzinger again, for several reasons. Still, gotta think about it.

    We live in interesting times.

  25. Father John,

    Can you tell us anything about the former monastery in the Vatican, especially its name?

  26. Imrahil says:

    I don’t think so. Cardinal basically means “incumbent of a Cardinalate”, viz. as a bishop-in-chief (to use a British military analogy) of a suburbican see, or a titular Church or titular deaconate. The latter two cease upon becoming Pope; they are simply derivates of the office of the Bishop of Rome. Also the episcopal see ceases, because if a Pope would have been an incumbent diocesan bishop, that position would cease too.

    But be that as it may, anyway in this case, Pope Benedict’s offices in Ostia, Velletri-Segni and Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino have new incumbent cardinals. Thus, he is Pope emeritus (because he is that anyway) and His Excellency (because he is a bishop), and we might on purely courteous reasons, due to the unprecedentedness of the case, call him His Eminence also (something feels wrong with His Holiness, after resignation). But Cardinal he will only be if re-created as such.

    Besides, all Cardinal bishop sees are taken, but a Pope could either admit him as titular-only Cardinal bishop (the way the Eastern patriarchs are) or also some of the Cardinal bishops could resign and have himself reduced to Cardinal priest. Or, the Pope could of course be recreated as Cardinal priest (of, say, Santa Maria dell’Anima, elevated for the purpose?).

  27. Imrahil says:

    they are simply derivates of the office of the Bishop of Rome.

    Meaning: A pastor or general vicar that becomes bishop of the same diocese, loses these other offices (or so I think?). Same for a Cardinal (I think).

  28. Ioannes Andreades says:

    I think he’ll be called the pontifex minimus.

  29. Giuseppe says:

    I suspect that Pope Benedict XVI would happily live out his days with the highest title of all: Padre. He is, first and foremost, a priest. He will be Padre Giuseppe. Or, if he wants to recall his papal years: Padre Benedetto. He will, of course, always be a bishop. But returning to the role of the humble priest, in retreat and in prayer in his final days, will elevate the role of all Fathers.

    It takes guts to sacrifice one’s self for God’s will. Padre Giuseppe did so by reluctantly accepting the papacy, and he strongly decides to call it quits when he knows he is no longer up to the job.

    He will spend his final days in prayer and reflection. That is a pretty powerful statement.

  30. Dr. Eric says:

    Cdl. Mahoney has said that he’s excited to be in the next conclave. I bet we’re all happy about that. :-/

  31. VexillaRegis says:

    Mahonia is a rather thorny shrub.

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  33. Jean Marie says:

    Interesting take by Michael Voris from an April 16, 2012 Vortex. We’ll see what the Holy Spirit and Our Lady decide. In all things, God’s will be done.

  34. JesusFreak84 says:

    Every thought I currently want to have about Mahoney would send me to Confession >_>

  35. Bea says:

    Interesting view from the remnant:

    Did the Wolves Win? Or Has the Holy Father Discovered a Way to Outsmart the Wolf Pack?

  36. FXR2 says:

    Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith or Raymond Cardinal Burke, decisions decisions. This should certainly focus our Lent!
    Pray, fast, and give alms!

  37. The part that puzzles me is that if we’re going to the trouble of planning ahead, why not have the conclave before the vacancy occurs? Had I been Pope, I would have simply declared that my resignation took effect immediately upon election of a successor. Why even have an interregnum? I know that one answer to this may be “the rules don’t provide for that,” but the Pope, as supreme legislator, can take care of that as long as he is still Pope.

  38. hilltop says:

    So, one of the truly unique circumstances of the Pontiff’s abdication is that I get to be a canonically acceptable sedevacantist for a short period of time?! Who knew? And what more wonders are to come?

  39. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    @Dr. Peters,

    Isn’t it quite possible that that rule concerning the 15 days could be waived (perhaps explicitly by Benedict) for this conclave? It appears that its main purpose is not to create a short time of Sede Vacante for any particular reason, but simply a logistical one of allowing cardinals not in Rome to make travel arrangements and get there. Surely in this case, since they already know in advance, they can begin planning now.

    I agree that, as it reads it seems to require 15 days, but it does seem like such a waiting period is unnecessary, and perhaps unwise, as (people have noted) Easter would be coming up very soon after that.

  40. RichardT says:

    My initial thought (like others) was that he will not be a cardinal after his resignation takes effect, because a cardinal is the holder of one of the relevant titular sees or churches.

    But looking at canon law, I’m not sure that’s correct:
    Can. 351 §2 “Cardinals are created by 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 the rights defined in the law.”

    There are provisions for them to be assigned to a relevant title or titular see, but that comes after; canon 351 seems clear that it is the decree of the Pope in consistory that makes them a cardinal. So the then Archbishop Ratzinger was made a cardinal by Papal decree (in 1977 by Paul VI) and it would seem that still stands.

    This is useful; it isn’t just about how he is addressed or what he wears. Being a cardinal exempts him from most of the authority of the diocesan bishop and makes him subject directly and only to his successor as Pope.

    (Query; since he was made cardinal in 1977, was there any relevant difference in the old Code of Canon Law?)

    N.B. Cardinals from the Eastern churches do not seem to take any suburbicarian see or title, and are Cardinal Bishops in addition to the six with suburbicarian sees. This supports the view that the role of Cardinal does not require a suburbicarian titular post, and also gives a useful precedent for how to treat an ex-pope.

    But I am not a canon lawyer; it will be interesting to read Prof. Peters on this.

  41. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Isn’t it quite possible that that rule concerning the 15 days could be waived (perhaps explicitly by Benedict) for this conclave?”

    Sure it’s possible. But a papal intervention to that effect would be required.

  42. Prof. Basto says:

    It is very much possible that the new Pope will be Crowned / Inaugurated on March 24, Palm Sunday. Just imagine. The entrance procession of the new Pope with the Palms and the chanting of “Hosanna filio David, Rex Israël, Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini”.

  43. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Very disappointing. A modernist to the end.

  44. robtbrown says:

    Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Very disappointing. A modernist to the end.

    What do you mean by modernist?

  45. Bea says:

    Jean Marie
    Thanks for the post on Michael Voris’ video.
    I have long thought of Cardinal Burke as the best choice for successor.
    He was not in Rome as the announcement took place.
    That left me wondering as to the timing.

  46. Stumbler but trying says:

    “As Fr. Mitch Pacwa stated, on EWTN this morning, perhaps he will do his greatest acts for the church through his life of intense prayer once he is no longer the pope.”

    Sounds wonderful thus I will remember to join my prayers with those of Padre Giuseppe.

  47. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    robtbrown: from Merriam-webster, definition below. He was, is and always will be a proud defender of Vatican II and the Papacy as the primary mover and agent of change and liberalism. That he did not hold his See till death is but one more example of this.

    Definition of MODERNISM
    : a practice, usage, or expression peculiar to modern times
    often capitalized : a tendency in theology to accommodate traditional religious teaching to contemporary thought and especially to devalue supernatural elements
    : modern artistic or literary philosophy and practice; especially : a self-conscious break with the past and a search for new forms of expression

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  49. robtbrown says:

    Cheesesteak expert,

    The first definition is irrelevant. And it’s well known that BXVI does not fit the 3rd definition. He is devoted to the thought St Augustine and is an expert on St Bonvaventure. And the resignation, which I don’t like, recalls the 15th century.

    So that leaves the second. There is very little in his written works post 1983 that indicates devaluation of supernatural elements or accommodation to contemporary thought. In fact, The Spirit of the Liturgy is decidedly in favor of the supernatural and opposed to contemporary forms of worship.

  50. MichaelJ says:

    You touched on something that does seem to be a modern innovation. I’m not saying that it is modernist, but I’ve never heard of a Pope choosing to author a book instead of, say, authoring an encyclical. Any insight on this?
    The Spirit of the Liturgy may very well contain valuable insights and deep spiritual meaning, but for some reason he chose not to invoke his teaching authority and declined the protection of the Holy Ghost. Why was that? Any ideas?

  51. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    robtbrown – eh, check this out. This fellow Prof. Batso, much more erudite than I, says what I can only intuit, and says it very well, on another post here on Fr. Z’s blog. What do you think?

    Prof. Basto says:
    11 February 2013 at 9:03 pm

    I will use this opportunity to speak out.

    I know that everybody is saying “how wonderful this resignation is”, “how brave”, “how corageous”, “we gotta praise the wisdom of our Pope”, etc. I’m not a part of that chorus.

    “Thank you, Pope Benedict”, yes. He deserves thanks. For decades dedicated to the service of the Church. For a luminous pontificate. For Summorum Pontificum. For his speeches, his teachigs. But, boy, that abdication was one big of a mistake.

    I know, I know. You guys will rush to defend the act, and will say, “that’s the Pope’s sovereign decision”, “only Him, in His supreme authority, could decide what was best”, “we must respect the decision to abdicate, however unusual”, etc. And there is some truth in that line of argument.

    Indeed the Pope has no judge but God. Indeed from a purely juridical standpoint, he can always resign. Indeed, in the cold letter of Canon Law, the decision rests only on his free and sovereign will. But that does not make this abdication justifyed.

    And forgive me, but the “declining strength” reason stated, I don’t think it is a good enough reason to relinquish the office of Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth. What about the confidence that the Lord would provide the means whereby the work could get done? Doesn’t the Lord that gives the task also bestows His Vicar on Earth with the means of fulfilling that task?

    What about us, the simple Catholics, the lay faithful and also the simple priests, who are spiritual sons of the Holy Father? We, who are not even mentioned in the Abdication Declaration? Our Holy Father is not dead, and yet he decides to abandon his mystical marriage to the Church of Rome. He dissolves that bond. He was to the simple Catholic folk a spiritual Father, and now will abandon that role. No longer the universal Father, but not dead.

    This abdication is something that is somehow at odds with the Divine Constitution of the Church. I don’t mean to say that the abdication is not valid. I just mean to say that the principle of leaving the Petrine Ministry because you are ill, of quitting the Chair of Peter due to physical difficulties, or lack of forces, is something foreign to the Monarchical nature of the Church. To such an extent that in an impressive line of more than a quarter of a thousand Popes, only a handful of them resigned, and a few not willingly.

    Why? Because, as the impressive succession of Popes that served for live demonstrates, The Papacy Is A Job For Life. It is desired by the Lord as a job for life. Otherwise, the Lord would have established that Peter would serve a term of years, and then be replaced by John, etc. But no, Peter served unto death, setting the example for his successors.

    Now, we now that there are those in the Church, the Thomas Reeses and others of her liberal wing, who are now singing the praises of the boldness of this present abdication, the first since Gregory XII’s in 1415, almost 600 years ago. Gregory’s abdication was more justified than Benedict’s, though. He abdicated to heal a terrible, grave and long schism, that was tearing Christiandom apart. Compared with that, Benedict’s abdications seems more and more like a “grand refusal”.

    And why are the liberals singing the praises of this abdication? Just because Benedict is a conservative and now he will be gone? No. They are exited because this resignation may set a precedent. And after two or three popes abdicate, soon a Pope will change Canon Law, and either Popes will serve a defined term of years, or Popes, will have a fixed retirement age. Popes emeriti will become as common as the novelty of Bishops emeriti.

    A line of the serving and of the living former Popes, all Vicars of Christ for the duration of their respective mandates.

    And when that happens, subtly, the Divine Constitution of the Church will have changed, if not in the letter of the law, at least in its practical functioning. Instead of Popes elected to serve as Sovereigns for life, the “Sovereign Pontiff”, the Church will elect Popes to preside over the Church for a term of years, perhaps a term of years of a duration already known at the very moment of the beggining of a new Pontificate.

    Christ is King and his Dominion is called a Kingdom of Heaven, and we hail him as King of the Universe, but the Church will be like a republic with a president, the role of Peter, the role of the Rock, shifting among several living men according to a juridical formula, in a succession of living Popes totally foreign to the history of the Church.

    If we are real traditionalists, if we posit that the Divine Constitution of the Church cannot change, then such essential things as the Papacy must remain now as they were yesterday and always. With Popes, except for very very much exceptional reason (and the reason given in this present case is nothing exceptional), serving in the Petrine Office until the end of their lives.

    So I think I see this thunder as the thunder of the fury of the Lord over the refusal perpetrated by his servant, who, in his freedom, chose to relinquish his investiture before the time appointed by the Lord.

  52. acardnal says:

    Cheesesteak, read further down that Post and you will read that robtbrown already commented.

  53. robtbrown says:

    Cheesesteak expert,

    I already read it and commented on it. As I noted (twice), I don’t care much for the resignation. But I don’t think it’s in any way typical of Modernism, esp. considering that there were abdications hundreds of years ago.

    I also have doubts about the mandatory retirement age of bishops. Although I stood and cheered when Cardinal Mahony retired, it created a situation where the voting Cardinal at the conclave is devoid of pastoral authority in one of the biggest dioceses in the world while the ordinary (Gomez) can’t vote.

  54. robtbrown says:


    The Spirit of the Liturgy was written while he was still a Cardinal. You’re probably referring to the Jesus books, which seem to me more like Wednesday Audience commentaries (cf the JPII commentary on Genesis) than formal doctrinal documents.

    IMHO, for an professional intellectual like Papa Ratzinger being pope is not all that interesting. Lots of time devoted to private audiences with diplomats and well known people, pastoral visits to parishes in Rome and Italy, and tedious administrative work.

  55. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Andrew Saucci,

    while I humbly suggested waiving the 15 day period (which would require Papal action; the Cardinals on their own are totally incapable of it), and while I do not deny the Pope could validly act as you suggest…

    still it seems critical to me that a vacancy should begin before the conclave convenes.

    The idea of a reigning Pope supervising (he is the Pope; no matter how much he promises, and honestly promises, not to intervene, he does supervise) a conclave to elect his successor is… awkward.

    By which I do not deny validity, should a Pope decide to take that way. Our Holy Father, gloriously reigning, apparently does not do so, and I applaud him for it.

  56. A thought … could the fact that Pope Benedict XVI will still be alive influence the voting? Surely they will not slap him in the face by electing a radical liberal?

  57. Pingback: What Will Happen After Pope Benedict XVI Resigns on Feb. 28th? | Ad Gloriam Dei

  58. eulogos says:

    Rural Virologist (what a great title, sounds very interesting)

    They would not do that anyway.

  59. catholicmidwest says:

    I think the situation all over the world mitigates against electing a liberal now. The faith is growing the most rapidly in Asia and Africa, which tend to both be more conservative. Catholic Europe lies in ruins and the Church in the US is in trouble. The world has changed immensely in just a few years.

  60. catholicmidwest says:

    Besides I read someplace that more than half of the cardinal electors were made cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI, and these choices were made very carefully because of Benedict’s very clear understanding of the world situation. The remainder were made cardinals by PJP2. This is not like 1978 which was pretty open and more than a bit scary. Both times.

  61. The Masked Chicken says:

    “The faith is growing the most rapidly in Asia and Africa, which tend to both be more conservative.”

    I had a conversation with someone last night about this very subject. The faith is growing most rapidly in Africa and India, but, unlike the historical development in of the Church in Europe, both Africa and India are fractured cultures, much more so than anything in Europe. There are hundreds of languages spoken in both Africa and India, so the idea that there could be an, “African,” or “Indian,” Church in any way comparable to a European Church, especially considering that each subregion would be using its own vernacular, is difficult to imagine at this time. Europe developed Catholicism with two dominante languages: first, Greek, then Latin. Other smaller language groups developed over time, but it was the dominant unifying force of the Latin language, introduced universally by Charlemagne, that gave the Church a chance to develop into maturity.

    Also, (and I don’t want to start a fight about this – I’m just making an observation), most of the Christianity in both countrs (moreso in Africa and Korea) are heavily influence by Charismatic accretions, so much so that the Church is losing 4000 people per day to Pentecostal sect (in Korea, at least, where I have this data from), so the conservatism that appears on the surface is not, necessarily, an anchored conservatism based upon Tradition, but one that seems to be open (too easily) to modern revelations. Do not mistake enthusiam for enlightenment.

    Europe is a dead issue. Once the Catholic concept of marriage was lost, it was only a matter of time before European Catholicism would be overrun. What one should be looking at is the stability of marriage in Africa and Southeast Asia. This is one reason why the Church is, for now, thriving in these areas, but there are signs of an encroching secularism, even there.

    The biggest problem in the Church, today, is the rampent secularization of cultures due to a misunderstanding of the role of science in human affairs and the lack of a clear concept of humility that this over-dependence on science has brought about. Science is making great strides in Asia, so we may expect to see the contamination of Christian worship there at a faster rate then in Africa. There is some indication that the Council Fathers of Vatican II understood this, but their solution doesn’t really hasn’t brought about the rapproachment between science and religion they had hoped for.

    Catholicism has been apologizing to science for most of the last century. It is time for them to start asserting the truth: theology is the queen of the sciences. Perhaps, that would make learning the Faith cool to a generation brought up on ray-guns and teleportation.

    The Chicken

  62. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    robtbrown – The Bishop should die in his see was the general rule until Paul VI made the change of mandatory retirement. So it’s part and parcel of the hubris of Montini’s generation who felt empowered and justified in doing what they did, which was magnified by the power of the Papacy so thoroughly dominated by a modernist mentality. This mentality runs deep, and plays on this vapid global dependency on the Papacy. Would that the Canons of ancients sees – like Cologne, for example – had the self-respect they did before they were eviscerated the by Code of Canon law!

  63. catholicmidwest says:

    A small practical note on the mandatory retirement for bishops issue in the US. The Church here is moribund enough without having our diocesan houses filled by bishops who have lost the ability to lead their flocks, and also the ability to declare their own retirement. If we slow down any more, we’re going to freeze up like an old farm machine left in a field for decades.

    Also, let’s be honest as well as practical: This rule has also served as a tool for the Vatican to manage American dissent, and that’s been a good thing. We, in the US, have a reputation in the Vatican for being lunatics, and this has offered them a way of managing us, to some degree.

  64. robtbrown says:

    Cheese steak expert,

    If a bishop must die in his see, then no bishop could be elected pope. Further, it would mean that no bishops running a fairly small diocese could move to a Cardinalatial see.

  65. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    True enough. I thought it went without saying that the rule was the See in which he now sits, knowing that bishops can move from see to see, although that practice is also relatively modern. Most bishops, especially of established sees, for the bulk of the Church’s history were locals (Ambrose, Gregory and so forth), and when not, once they got there, they had not expectation of leaving (Augustine in Canterbury).
    And the precedent for a rationale, a la St. Peter Celestine, “for the good of the Church”? Wow, that can cut both ways. I’m sure Bugnini and Paul VI thought what they did was for the good of the Church too.
    And, what if the new Pope turns out to be a loose canon, and Benedict feels compelled to step in, or a “party” develops that feels he should step in, and then we have a repeat of the Great Western Schism. Could be nasty.
    Nah, whatever his intentions – and a modernist always says he has the noblest of intentions – he did not help tradition or Tradition by abdicating.

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