Feb 252011

by Anura Guruge

If there had been a conclave that started on Monday, February 21, 2011, we could have had three bona fide cardinal electors participating who were over the age of 80, viz. Cardinals Ricardo Vidal (dob Feb. 6, 1931), Agustin Garcia-Gasco Vicente (dob Feb. 12, 1931) & Camillo Ruini (dob Feb. 19, 1931). This would not have been due to any trickery, impropriety or misunderstanding. It would have been strictly by the rules, in this case Pope John Paul II’s (#265) 1996 Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis — which specifies what is to happen when there is a sede vacante. The two pertinent Universi Dominici Gregis clauses being #33 %& #37.

Universi Dominici Gregis #33 states: The right to elect the Roman Pontiff belongs exclusively to the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, with the exception of those who have reached their eightieth birthday before the day of the Roman Pontiff’s death or the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant.

Universi Dominici Gregis #37 states: I furthermore decree that, from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent; the College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more. But when a maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the election.

So, as you can see, per UDG #33, the 80-year cut-off for conclave eligibility is the day prior to when the sede vacante began. Specifying the ‘day before,’ is a mediocre attempt to avoid any possible timing-related ‘complications’ if the cut-off was said to be the actual day that the sede vacante occurred.

Given that the earliest that the conclave can begin is 16 days after the start of the sede vacante, any cardinals who turn 80 during this ‘window’ can legitimately participate in the conclave as cardinal electors. As you can also see from UDG #37 it is even possible for this window to be extended up to 20 days.

I did a quick check on the 2005 conclave. I didn’t see any over-80 cardinals that attended. Ditto with the two conclaves in 1978. But, as you can now see it is all a question of timing — and the chances of over-80 cardinals participating in a conclave increases when we have surfeit of cardinals in their 79th year.

The Vatican has never really addressed exactly when a cardinal turns 80 — given that there are 24 time zones and the real possibility that a cardinal may have been born in one time zone and living in another, very different, one. For example lets take the ‘Tanned Ratzinger.’ He was born in Ceylon — +5.5 hours GMT. (Yes, Sri Lanka still, to its credit, uses a .5 time zone to ensure that sun rise and sun set, in this country, just 7 ° North of the equator, is as close to ‘6’ as possible.) So lets assume that he is brought to Rome as so many predict. He would then be in GMT +1. He, in Sri Lanka, will turn 80 4.5 hours AHEAD of him turning 80 in the Eternal City. See the challenge?

I wrote about this nearly 3 years ago. Have a read here if you want for details of this problem.

John Paul II, Cleverly, Changed The 80-Year Cut-Off Point!
As is fairly well known, it is Paul VI (#263), in 1970, that came up with the 80-year, non-elector criteria for cardinals — to weed out, older, conservative cardinals that may have tried to elect a pope who may have tried to downplay the reforms sought by Vatican II.

In 1975, Paul VI unveiled his sede vacante related Apostolic Constitution, Romano Pontifici eligendo (which was superseded by John Paul II’s UDG in 1996).

Paul VI had a very different cut-off point for over-80 cardinals.

PauRomano Pontifici eligendo #33 states: The right to elect the Roman Pontiff belongs exclusively to the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, except for those of them who, in accordance with the norm previously established, shall have completed their 80th year when the time comes for entering into the conclave; the number of cardinal electors shall not, however, exceed 120. Excluded from among the electors, therefore, is any person of any other ecclesiastical rank and any layperson of whatever rank and order.

Paul VI excluded any cardinal, over 80, from entering the conclave! So if John Paul II had stuck with Paul’s criteria we would not have any over-80 cardinals entering a conclave (though it is always possible that a cardinal elector turns 80 while within the conclave).

So why did John Paul II change the Paul VI cut-off?

Anura Guruge's 'The Next Pope' Book

Anura Guruge's 'The Next Pope' Book

To me, that John Paul II changed the cut-off illustrated a fundamental difference in background, worldly experience and shrewdness of the two popes. John Paul II, given the rough-and-tumble existence he endured in Poland during WW II and the communist regime, comes across as more shrewd and cynical than the ‘gentle’ Paul VI. John Paul II obviously saw that there was a potential loophole in Paul VI’s scheme that could be exploited by a simple majority [i.e., 51%] of the College of Cardinals.

What is that loophole? The possibility of delaying the start of the conclave OR even refusing to delay the start of the conclave DEPENDING on whether it helped them in terms of when a 79-year old cardinal turned 80.

If you want details of the specific scenarios please check page 130 of my ‘The Next Pope.’ If you don’t have a copy you can read that page, for GRATIS (or even free), using Google Books or Amazon ‘Look Inside.’

The right to elect the Roman Pontiff belongs exclusively to the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, with the exception of those who have reached their eightieth birthday before the day of the Roman Pontiff’s death or the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant.The right to elect the Roman Pontiff belongs exclusively to the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, with the exception of those who have reached their eightieth birthday before the day of the Roman Pontiff’s death or the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant.

  19 Responses to “80 Year Old Cardinal Electors At A Conclave — Yes, It Is Possible”

  1. The oldest cardinal in the conclave of 2005 was Marco Ce, patriarch emeritus of Venice, born on July 8, 1925. There were 117 electors at the time JPII died. Curiously, the remaning number of 116 electors after the election of cardinal Ratzinger did not drop to 115 at Ce’s 80th birthday, but several days before, when cardinal Sin died (he was one of the two electors not participating in the conclave; he was also one of the three electors eligible for the conclave who was created cardinal by Paul VI, the other two being Baum and Ratzinger; he was once the youngest member of the College as well).

  2. Marko,
    Did you check the 1978 conclaves? In 1978 they couldn’t have gone in if they were 80 on the day, BUT they could have had a birthday during the conclave. Thanks.

  3. Anu,

    Great and insightful work as always. Your theory concerning JPII versus Paul VI in terms of shrewdness is interesting and well taken. But I’d like to throw a hypothetical out there, say that loophole was not closed by JPII. Would it have even mattered? With the numerous conservative Cardinals he created plus the leftovers from Paul VI, would that loophole have even mattered? I doubt the result would have been much different in 2005 had those old rules been in effect. Your thoughts.


  4. Darien,
    You are right about 2005 and the next conclave. But, this level of homogeneity is unusual and is due mainly to JPII’s long and FOCUSED (at least for the first 23 years) reign. IF that loophole existed in the 15th century there would have been mayhem with one faction or the other trying to shift the start date to exclude a cardinal or permit a cardinal.
    That neither pope even TRIED to spell out WHEN the timing kicks in is interesting, ESPECIALLY today when Cardinal Mahony’s retirement, upon turning 75, was accepted while he was still asleep! 9 hour time difference between Rome and LA (and I am not even sure what it is between LA and the Vatican). I can’t imagine Mahony staying up, by his PC, until it is mid-night in LA to e-mail in his resignation. Yes, that would have been 9am in Rome. That would also mean that the Pope was checking his e-mail at that time.
    You get my point.
    Thanks. We need some papabili updates.

  5. On two of the last days of JP II’s life,when he was on his deathbed not doing anything but being sick,a week’s worth of appointments were announced,because if they waited too long they would laose with his death.The Vatican ordinarily takes its time with its in-basket and its out-basket.Emergencies like Abp. Weakland’s conversion of his 401:1 retirement to a 401:2 when his hush money scandal came out can be dealt with quickly.Mahony presumably made his wishes to leave promptly on the birthday known in advance though I still haven’t seen a Vatican notice (their website seems sick today).Sfeir’s retirement was approved yesterday but Foley’s,though he has moved to a Pennsylvania retirement home,has not yet been announced!

  6. In the past,consistories have been announced on Sundays,on the website.(Such as the two-part 2001 event discussed here recently).So “Rinunce e Nomine” does not always have the day off!

  7. Louis and Anu…No and No.
    It is within the sphere of competence of the Sovereign Pontiff to announce whatever he likes when he likes. The unforunate nearly archbishop of Warsaw Abp Weiglus “was resigned” on Sunday 6th Jan 2007. The quoted words are a very unusual construction in English grammar, which reflects the unusual and probably unique timescale of his nearly enthronement and resignation all on the same Sunday morning. Please indicate another episcopal resignation of apppointment announced on a Sunday.

    The Pope, personally himself, has retained to himself the verbal announcement of the names of those to be created Cardinal by him. This is reported as an extension of the Sunday Angelus or Wednesday General Audience by the Vatican website the same day.

  8. Sorry … I was trying to wing two birds with one corn husk.
    I had been meaning to tell you, for the last 24 hours, that I know your brother was driving a BIG tractor. I had actually even asked you whether it was a John D 1939.
    Hence why you got dragged in. There have been other instances. WI and cranes. Remember.
    All I meant was that AT LEAST you and Louis should know by now … first apply the FLIPPANT FILTER … viz. ‘Is this Anu just being flip or can be really be serious’
    No offense meant.
    I tried being a sun worshiper in my youth, 16-18, while attending Mill Hill in London. They expected me to attend Chapel each and every morning at some ungodly hour like 8am. Every day. So I wrote to the Headmaster and said i was ‘sun worshiper’ and can I thus please be excused Chapel. He said, no you can worship your damn sun (which is difficult to do at the best of times in England) in the Chapel.
    I will add more to this story. My two years of going to Chapel …
    But as a sun worshiper, Sunday has always been special to me.
    SMILE. No laugh.
    Hey … just realized. Governor of IL? Tell me MORE about him. Do you know him? Is that YOUR buddy in IL? Just saw him on TV (MSNBC). Never seen him before,

  9. No sooner than I finished reading your comment, I happened to see this in my Yahoo tab. [Yes, I have 14 separate tabs open].
    This must be a sign.
    You do know HIM right? They even made a movie about HIM. I think, I could be wrong here, he had a famous wife (or two, or three).

  10. Speaking of Mahoney, it looks as if the Vatican officially accepted his resignation today March 1 (technically yesterday since I am still running on college time and posting this at 2am). The website Catholic Hierarchy has Gomez listed as Archbishop and Mahoney as Emeritus.

    Also, I can work on my updated Papabili list in the next week and have that for you soon.


  11. Darien,
    Yes, I noticed that too and it looked REAL INCONGRUOUS on Dear Salvador’s ‘additions‘ page … because he had the transition dated Feb. 27 and the resignation dated March 1.
    Did YOU read my little outburst about this resignation? It was a busy weekend for the Vatican. Sfeir retired too. The Webs of inconsistencies that the Vatican weaves and then tries to thread through never ceases to amaze me. For the first time, I had a QUICK look at CCEO. From what I can see, the 75-year, submit-your-resignation, does not apply to Oriental Rites. I guess this is due to the old adage that orientals age well.
    Walking Ulysses this morning, I was thinking that I should do a quick papabili post today. I got an e-mail yesterday from Fr. Anthony chastising me for NOT doing more work on papabili. Over the weekend I took down at least two papabili related posts. So time to replenish.
    Given that TIME and calendars are another fascination of mine … YOU said something that pinned back my ears. “running on college time”. Are you just trying to say you are rushed off your feet or does your College (Syracuse), like the old railways and now AZ, have its own College Time Zone? That could be cool. Even if it is just a small one, like AZ, of ignoring Day Light saving. But just think of the possibilities. Syracuse College Time could be the same as GMT. I love Greenwich. I took my son there when he was about 2.75. He had some kind of epiphany. For reasons we could never decipher he started calling the Observatory Building the ‘dumpster house’! He was mesmerized by the pictures of ship wrecks they had in there. He stood for hours in front of those pictures just staring at them, not saying a word. Then for the next 7 years all he would talk about was the ‘dumpster house.’ And boy we try to get to the bottom of that. But, he also became obsessed with ship wrecks. Became a Titanic junkie — albeit with active help from Dad who bought him all things Titanic and took him to the Titanic exhibition. So Greenwich.
    GMT is a funny thing though … right?
    Have YOU ever thought about it.
    It is testament that they never fully grasped the notion of earthly time, time zones, the earth not being flat etc. But Rome (or for that matter even Venice) never tried to get the zero meridian. Maybe it might not be too late. That could BE THE defining legacy of Benedict XVI. He gets the meridian re-located so it runs through the papal apartment. That would give Dan Brown material for a whole new bestseller.
    Thanks. Cheers.

  12. As with many bishops attempting to be the Pope in their own dioceses,Mahony attempted to be the one who accepted his own resignation on the 27th.Then on the 28th,he announced that it would be taking effect at 12:01 AM local time that night.But it took effect when the Vatican announced it,3 AM local time that night/March 1st morning.

  13. It is a continuum, but Jews have to convert to Catholicism … right?
    Terrible thing falling asleep during movies. We have things called DVRs in NH. It is like a tape but with a hard drive. Very mysterious to me. But, it somehow records movies. They even have one with both an infrared and ultrasound, Wi-Fi RFAD senors. It can detect if the designated primary is falling asleep by measuring eye movement (that is the infrared part I think), detecting snoring, measuring lower heart-rate. Then it automatically starts recording.
    P.S., Your words are a great comfort to the Jews. Thank you.

  14. Does this mean that the Sunday, Feb. 28 transition ceremony was a sham and that Archbishop Jose Gomez was not properly installed? Does this also mean that they will have to give back all the money they collected at the ceremony or is that exempt?

  15. With all due respect to His Eminence, I’ve never been a fan of Cardinal Mahoney. So regardless of when his reign as Archbishop officially ended, I celebrated on Sunday. His admitted bungling of the sex-abuse scandal aside, his inability to adhere to Church orthodoxy has irritated me for some time. Add to that, that abomination of a Cathedral which should have been called the Taj Mahoney instead, I’m more than happy to see someone else in LA. From what I’ve seen and read of him, I rather like Gomez.

    And to answer your question about time, I did not mean that Syracuse runs on a different clock than the eastern time zone. I simply meant that my sleeping pattern is still that of a college student. Turn in for the night around 3am and wake up the next day about noon. God willing that will change soon with a job, but for now it gives me the time to read your blog among others more regularly, which I could not do while taking coursework. Look for my Papabili list in your inbox soon.


  16. You probably haven’t read these:
    1/ Lord O’Malley

    2/ And this.

    Did you hear that today was the GREATEST day in Irish history. You might want to check the local news. I was amazed. I had seen the numbers 45 minutes before the end, and was thinking when is God going to cut some slack to the only Catholic country in this noble fray. God delivered. You should be very proud. Congratulations.

  17. I have never hidden a listening device in my beard but I assume it is easier than if clean-shaven.Has anyone done an electronic sweep on Cardinal O’Malley?

  18. I guess that you would have a beard kind of makes sense? Is in long, scraggly and unkempt like those of the Orthodox prelates. I really must do a study of beards and the Abrahamic religions. I think there is some sort of pattern as with circumcision.
    A TSA question for YOU, given that Lord O’Malley does reside in Boston and Logan does have those new fangled full-body scanners. Do Lord Cardinals have to go through TSA security or are they immune from such earthly indignities … especially as I am not sure whether any cardinal, even one as young as Lord O’Malley, remembers how to take off ones shoes and put them back on without a valet kneeling down and doing it for them.
    I assume you have heard about the listening devices incorporated into cuff-links and shirt studs supposedly used at conclaves and then flushed down the toilets.
    Did I ever tell you about my story of flying from La Gaurdia to Boston in a Tux during a snow storm. This was pre-2001 — just. All the metal in a tux, including the shirt studs, drove the metal detector bonkers. It started rattling and nearly blew up.

  19. That would be boring, and YOU know how I hate that. SMILE.

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