From a reader…
Canonically speaking, if a Pope emeritus were alive at the time of the conclave to elect his successor’s successor, given he was a Cardinal and Pontiff, may he vote if he were under 80 years old? If he is over 80, may he participate in the same manner that other super-annuated cardinals are permitted to participate?
We are waaaay into the realm of speculation.
However, if we start from a couple of premises, and noting that we won’t be seeing anything like this in the near future, maybe we can think it through.
First, being a Cardinal is an specific role. It can be conferred and removed and resigned. It seems to me that when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected, he ceased to be a Cardinal and began to be Roman Pontiff. With his resignation, he did not become a Cardinal again. Before he resigned, Benedict could have decreed that, with the instant of his resignation, he would be a Cardinal again, or still. He didn’t do that. Furthermore, in no way has he comported himself as a Cardinal, retired or other.
WERE Benedict a Cardinal, then, being over 80, he would not be able to vote in the Conclave, but he would be able to participate in the events leading up to the Conclave. If he thought he was still a Cardinal, he could have – before his abdication – changed the laws of the Conclave in regard to voting age. But, he didn’t.
The same would apply to Pope Francis were he to resign. He would have the option to say, “After I resign, I’ll be a Cardinal.” He would have the option to do what Benedict did… or didn’t. He could determine – before his resignation – what his role would be or he could be silent about it. The next Pope could determine a role for him, or not.
So, this is waaaay out there in the realm of unsettling speculation.
I, for one, don’t long to see a multiplication of these resignations or emeriti, regardless of the affection one might have for them.