From a reader…
In your podcast the other about [Fr. Thomas G.] Weinandy’s idea of an “internal papal schism” you said that nobody is saying that Bergoglio is an Antipope. But there are people saying that and Bergoglio is an Antipope because the conclave was invalid. There were Cardinals who conspired to elect Bergoglio and that means they were excommunicated and were forbidden to be in the conclave. Austen Ivereigh said Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor told him that he and others worked for Bergoglio and disgraced McCarrick said that he was approached by some powerful guy and then he campaigned for Bergoglio. At least some of the Cardinals in the conclave were not supposed to be able to vote. Bergoglio is an Antipope because the conclave was rigged!
Yes, I’ve seen this argument before. Since some electors incurred an excommunication automatically (latae sententiae) by conspiring and agreeing to elect Bergoglio (Universi dominici gregis 81), therefore they weren’t supposed to vote in the conclave. But they did vote and therefore the election is invalid.
The problem with this argument is the distinction between types of excommunication.
Latae sententiae excommunications can be incurred automatically, even in a hidden way. Other excommunications are publicly declared (ferendae sententiae). Canon law indicates that a person who has incurred a censure latae sententiae would cast an illicit vote, whereas a person under a ferendae sententiae excommunication would cast an invalid vote. If an election turned on the number of votes cast by electors under ferendae sententiae excommunication then the election would be invalid (can. 171).
If a Cardinal elector is under ferendae sententiae excommunication he would be impeded from participating in the conclave and he would not be permitted even to enter the conclave. And only a Pope determines whether a Cardinal has incurred a latae sententiae excommunication and then formally declare a ferendae sententiae excommunication (can. 1405). But there is no Pope in the run up to a conclave. That’s a problem.
If a bunch of Cardinal electors conspired after the death of the Pope and before the conclave, and they incurred the latae sententiae censure, there would be no Pope to declare the ferendae sententiae penalty. Hence, those Cardinal electors would be admitted to the conclave and would vote illicitly but not invalidly.
Believe me: Cardinals know this stuff. They know exactly how far they can go.
I have zero doubt that a group of Cardinals did go right up to the line in 2013.
An honest Cardinal elector, repenting of his conspiratorial whisperings, would have to tell the others that he had incurred latae sententiae an excommunication and, therefore, beg to be excused from fulfilling his duty to enter the conclave. BUT… if he didn’t want to do that, he could enter and vote validly but illicitly… and wind up in Hell if he died before getting the censure lifted and, then, making a good confession. Also, even if the excommunicated Cardinal elector did beg off, and the others agreed that he shouldn’t enter the conclave, the excommunicated elector could still change his mind and enter and vote. It’s ferendae sententiae, not latae sententiae, that matters.
Let’s see the key canon:
Can. 171 §1 The following are legally incapable of casting a vote:
1° one incapable of a human act;
2° one lacking active voice;
3° one who is excommunicated, whether by judgement of a court or by a decree whereby this penalty is imposed or declared; [ferendae sententiae, not latae sententiae]
4° one who notoriously defected from communion with the Church.
§2 If any of the above persons is admitted, the vote cast is invalid. The election, however, is valid, unless it is established that, without this vote, the person elected would not have gained the requisite number of votes.
So, in a conclave, the margin of the number of votes would also be considered. If the conclave were deadlocked long enough to kick in the absolute majority rule, and the election were to turn on a slim margin of votes, there could be a problem. Of course how formally declared excommunicates were present in the first place is a puzzle.
In the end, therefore, I don’t think that the theory of a conspiracy to elect Bergoglio is enough to invalidate the vote in the conclave. Those who did conspire, and there is enough evidence to suspect at least a few electors, against the clear prescriptions of the rules for the electors in Universi dominici gregis 81, will wind up in Hell if they don’t repent and seek to have the censure lifted… ironically by the one whom they might have conspired to elect.
No. If you are going to say that Francis is not a legitimate Pope, you need a better argument than an invalid conclave due to conspiracy.
I suppose you might have to argue that there shouldn’t have been a conclave at all, it wasn’t even really a conclave because the See of Peter wasn’t really empty and Benedict was really still Pope. In other words, Benedict didn’t legitimately abdicate because he was a) forced under great pressure and as a result wasn’t completely free or b) he didn’t really mean what he clearly said and clearly wrote and then, in fact, clearly did.
But that’s another matter.