Oct 202010

The pope, Benedict XVI (#266), today, October 20, 2010, announced 20, who given that they are under 80, will be named as cardinal-electors at the Saturday, November 20, 2010 cardinal creating consistory.

This is how these 20 were portrayed by the Vatican Information Service: ‘Twenty of the new cardinals, being under the age of eighty, will be electors.’

Well, that is NOT actually the case. For these 20 to be cardinal electors, one of the current cardinal electors has to die prior to the consistory!

That is the issue. Hence, the impression that the pope is playing God.


> Right now we are at 102 electors, i.e., 18 slots short of the 120 cardinal elector limit imposed by Paul VI (#263) and confirmed in clause #33 of John Paul II‘s Universi Dominci Gregis Apostolic Constitution.
Please read << this >> if you need more background on the 120 limit (and issue).

> On November 14, 2010, Jānis Pujats, will turn 80 and cease to be an elector. That gives us 19 slots. Hence, why there was talk of the TOP 19 cardinalabili.

> If a current cardinal elector does NOT die before the consistory we will end up with 121 electors.


Yes, under John Paul II (#265) we have had more than 120; following his February 2001 consistory we had 128 electors and following his October 2003 consistory 135. [That he created 121 at his very first consistory in June 1979 is not true, because one name was in pectore and as such did not count.]

But, that was then and this is now.


Here are the issues as it relates to this pope and this consistory:

1. When announcing his very first consistory on February 27, 2006, this pope, Benedict XVI said:
Do a Google on this announcement and consistory. This statement by the pope was interpreted and reported by most as the pope indicating that he, unlike his esteemed predecessor, will not exceed Paul VI’s 120.

2. In his other two consistories this pope did NOT exceed 120.

3. If a pope is going to exceed the 120, as John Paul II did, then there is little point doing so by just one ESPECIALLY WHEN 6 more slots will open up before Easter 2011. So rather than 121, 126 would have been better.

4. At his last consistory, i.e., November 25, 2007, this pope did the SAME THING … and now we know how and why. Which is WHY this time around it looks unsavory. The November 24,  2007 consistory was announced on October 17, 2007. He named 18 prospective cardinals. That would have resulted in 121 electors. But, Japanese cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao died, of lung cancer, on November 8, 2007. This ensured that there were only 120 electors after the consistory. We now know, that Cardinal Hamao met privately with Benedict XVI on October 9, 2007 and appraised him of his medical condition! The consistory announcement was made 8 days later and one cannot but assume that the pope factored this in. That is the problem.


All indications are that we have a similar situation, i.e., the pope is aware that there is a very ill cardinal who is likely to be gone before the consistory — thus giving him that one additional slot.

The question: should the pope exploit such a situation?

What happens if there is a miracle? The pope now has 121 cardinal electors …

What about the Church standing on the sanctity of life? Here we are being somewhat callous about the life of a cardinal.

I do not get it.

If we do end up with 120 cardinals after the consistory because a cardinal elector dies prior to that … I would be dismayed.

Yes, there are HUGE problems with this artificial, unnecessary 120 limit and we have at least 4 posts here about ways to deal with it.

But, for the pope to play God …

Not sure.

Anura Guruge

Please also read a comment along these lines, today, on this blog, by my friend Marko B. of Croatia.

Please scroll down for all the RELATED posts on the 24 new cardinals that will be created at the Saturday, November 20, 2010 consistory — Consistory 2010.

  31 Responses to “Is The Pope Playing God When It Comes To The New Cardinal Electors On November 20, 2010?”

  1. When it comes to canon law,the Pope is “god”…he can’t make a law so strict he can’t waive it,or else the radtrad interpretations of Quo Primum requiring the missal enacted at the Council of Trent to endure until the sun grows cold would have invalidated every mass since I think the 1600s.So,he decided that the period from the next consistory until Cardinal Panafieu’s impending birthday would have 121 electors.

  2. Want to bet that come November 20, 2010 we will have exactly 120 cardinals?

    He did it in 2007 and is trying to do it again.

    I would have been ecstatic if he changed 120. But he doesn’t. He is banking on a cardinal dying. Not nice.

  3. Please update the papabili list — though now … I am not sure we need a list.

    Next pope will be from Sri Lanka … right?

    He is already wearing white.

  4. Maybe the 121. cardinal elector is not nearing his death. Maybe he is permanently weak. For instance, cardinal Suárez Rivera, who did not participate in the conclave of 2005 (April 2005) died in March 2008. Three years after the conclave. Maybe some elector (a bishop emeritus) on another continent is unable to travel to Rome. But may live for many years. I don’t think the pope expected Hamao’s death at such an exact moment. But Hamao certainly told him that he was not intending to leave Japan.

  5. I wonder if Neil Young’s papabili list will be updated.I see consistories every two years for a while.
    How soon after the consistory will there be a new edition of Next Pope?
    (Nobody writing a book on anticipated papal elections likes there to be a consistory between the publication and the conclave…with the POD paradigm I think your sales will spike at the start of the sede vacante,at least that’s when I plan to order!…fortunately shipping can beat Cum proxime).

  6. There is at least one other possibility–one of the designee electors could die before the consistory, and may have informed the pope of the likelihood in his case.

  7. Jim,
    That my friend is EXACTLY my point.
    But it feels tacky.
    That the Pope is banking on somebody to die and makes it fairly obvious for those like us that read the chicken entrails.
    I am sure that that is what it is.
    Thanks. Cheers.

  8. Interesting. Why then didn’t he go ahead and name 125 or 126. We will lose 6 cardinals by April 2011 and I assume we are NOT going to have a conclave before that?
    Thanks, Marko.

  9. Thank YOU, Louis,
    Feb. 2011 would be one year since first publication.
    I definitely can have the 2011 edition done by then. As a trial to see how much effort, I did a revision in August. I set aside 3 days for it. But, got it all done in a hectic, but long Monday.
    Yes, I have it all mapped out. What I need to do.
    But, I am thinking.
    Pope from Sri Lanka is THE MAGICAL COMPROMISE pope.
    Not from the East or West. Not from the North or South.
    But, Xenophobia if not outright prejudice will be an issue. I USED to spend MUCH time in Italy. No. No. Not going around churches, museums or factories. Skiing. Very, very friendly people, but they have ingrained issues about skin color.
    So … I see both sides.
    Maybe I should change the title … ‘The Next Pope, from Sri Lanka’
    Must run. Tons to do. Still trying to populate my spreadsheet. But, just watched a great movie that had Mick Jagger!

  10. February is also when the 2001 cardinal-deacons can move up to cardinal-priest,which I suppose you could reflect.But I doubt that will be the last edition before the conclave.

  11. NOT sure whether they promotion makes a difference. I have Vallini now. Being a deacon is legit, though it has been a long time since one was pope. That whole issue is documented on this blog … August I think.

  12. You answered your own question. Lots of people PLAY God. Doctors are often said to play God.
    The pope is better equipped than most to play that role.
    Just makes me uneasy.
    But, chill out. What makes you so uneasy?

  13. Anura,
    You never addressed Marko’s point, that what if the Pope knows that one of the current 120 electors is unlikely to participate in the next conclave because he has poor health or refuses to travel (even though he’s several years under 80). As was the case with one or two of the cardinals in the last papal conclave.

    I was really surprised that you were criticizing the Pope in this way. It’s just the connotation of the thing. By suggesting that the Pope is “playing God”, you’re implying that the Pope is somehow involved in the SPECULATIVE death of a cardinal… because you used an active verb. Normally we assign “playing God” to people who actively change events through their actions, normally assigned to people who clone, harvest stem cells, employ euthanasia, etc. Those are honestly the only activities of late that I’ve heard someone accused of “playing God”.

    Anyways, I refuse to speculate as to the intentions of the Holy Father. As is often said in court: it’s impossible that the witness knows someone’s state of mind. If the college of cardinals temporarily rises above 120 as will almost certainly happen with a Pope who hasn’t had any health scares yet, I don’t think anyone should remember that as problematic. Pope Benedict shouldn’t be held to a statement he made, like its a CAMPAIGN PLEDGE for some politician. If we have 121 electors then it must’ve been ordained to occur.

  14. I didn’t address Marko’s point BECAUSE I am not sure what the protocol is. I need to think about it.
    I am not criticizing anybody.
    You obviously don’t hear much. Doctors and relatives are said DAILY to be playing God when it comes to pulling the plug.
    I am just asking a question. I can’t help how you connote. You don’t have to speculate, but, I like to speculate. That is part of what I do.
    My motto: THINK FREE, OR DIE, and I live in the Live Free, Or Die state.
    You conclude: ‘If we have 121 electors then it must’ve been ordained to occur.’
    Please explain. Ordained by who?

  15. I don’t get the man who sued for the right to cover up the “Live Free or Die” on his license plate.Surely by claiming the freedom to place his freedom beneath the plane the state desired,he was conceding their point?

  16. Did not know of this. Will have to look it up — IF I ever get time.
    State not as free wheeling as when I moved here in 1996. In those days they didn’t even have any laws about using dynamite. Now they even imposed speed limits on my lake. But, they still let bikers ride without helmets. Also you don’t need auto insurance. But, ironically, as we found out 5 years ago, if you are going to get hit, it is BEST to get hit by an uninsured driver! Yep. The State picks up the tab, using a fund they have … then goes after the driver! Don’t for a minute buy into the ‘no tax’ story. Yes, no sales or income tax …

  17. Marko,
    Basically what you are advocating now is the notion of SUBSTITUTE or RESERVE cardinal electors or as we say in cricket the 12th man. GREAT IDEA. Top of the class. So who shall we make the 12th man — the cardinal from Sri Lanka because he knows cricket?
    Oh, OK … the last named. That is good. Marx.
    But, why JUST one RESERVE. Plus, YOUR scheme will only applies till Jan. 26, 2011. We will have another cardinal turn 80 then.
    Ooops. No reserves. So … what now. Have a Nano-Consistory and create another reserve.
    Marko, we have looked at all of these.

    If he named 126 I would have applauded him. Just to add 1 is not cricket. And I guess that is WHY I have a problem with it. It upsets my notion of ‘playing right down the line with a straight bat’.

    So … please comment.
    Thanks & Cheers,
    P.S., I really do love the idea of having cardinal elector reserves.

  18. My youngest-120 plan would have the reserves numbering 83 next month (up from 59 now).

  19. I knew you would get it.
    Yes, I immediately saw the parallel between YOUR youngest 120 and this idea. Though he is a computer scientist, he might not have seen it.
    So .. I was … as ever … cutting him slack.
    Yes, I was going to be more sarcastic … IF you could believe that … but I decided to be nice.
    Just finished my spreadsheet. I am going to e-mail you some stuff.
    Working on the trivia.
    I had assumed you would, by now, have commented, more than once, about my Next Pope from Sri Lanka post … or did it … as we say in Britain … Gob Smack you. I assume you know what the Gob is?

  20. I’ll admit that the possibility is greater than that of a mass concelebrated by Clarence Kelly and Bridget Mary Meehan,but I figured you were just having a laugh at papability.

  21. I am GLAD that you are beginning to understand my humor, and that unlike most, flippancy is my primary M.O. That is why I never did well professionally. I could never take anything too seriously. If you ever meet me, God forbid, you will notice that I am always grinning like a village idiot — and it is possible that is what it is, though, in reality, I haven’t lived in a village per se, since 1975, when I used to live in Owslebury … next to the zoo that was featured in John Cleese’s ‘Dangerous Animals’. I have met him too. He hugged me. He is TALL. Yes, we both are cricket fanatics. I met him at Lord’s. No THAT WILL NOT be on your list. He wasn’t a Lord. Just his last name. Near Abbey Road.

  22. Just discovered this. Got to say I love the blog-even though big parts of it are barking mad.

    A Sri Lankean Pope? I think not-regardless of how fine a candidate the new Cardinal might be, he’s not European. And if you think the Euros are going to give this prize up soon, well good luck for you on your gambling.

    I don’t see anyone remotely papabile in this new list. I cazn’t help notice that Ratzinger is trying to signal something by limiting his classical music concerts to requiem masses. Perhaps not as healthy as the rest of the world is led to believe?

    I say Scola of Venice-now with pastoral repsonsibility and with lots of experience in the Curia. Which gives him a shot at knowing how to get things done.

  23. @ Anura
    Responding to your posts #16 and #19, there is really a question of law. If the number of electors is larger than 120, who is permittted to enter a conclave? Would they all be called to Rome? Would 121 cardinals be permitted to enter? If not, who will be the forbidden one? The oldest or youngest by date of birth (Panafieu vs. Marx)? The “youngest” according to precedence (the titles/deaconries are not yet determined, but the “youngest” would be one of the 11 curialist cardinals; as far as I have seen, the number of free deaconries is larger than 11)? Probably the thing is that all living cardinals would be called to Rome. Then not more than 120 elector would arrive and thus the number of participants would be within the (in)famous limit.

  24. Given that I have been often described as a mad dog Englishman, which is one heck of a complement, given I am about as tanned as the papabile from SL, I guess parts would have to be barking mad. Thank God, I no longer howl when it is the full moon. Cheers.

  25. The real issue that I think necessitates a new Election Constitution is the thoroughgoing ambiguity as to what matters during the sede vacante are to be decided by the “General Congregation” (which is defined as all Cardinals who attend,under the presidency of the Dean),and what matters by “the assembly of the Cardinal Electors” (defined as all under 80,under the presidency of the first of their number in order of precedence).Aside from the latter being the ones who elect the Pope,it’s unclear.And if the age limit holds we may face a situation where the electors are a minority of the College before long.

    If a conclave drags on,are the Vice-Camerlengo,the Regent of the Penitentiary,and Vicegerent of Rome to let things pile up in their respective spheres,or are the over-80 cardinals competent to decide?

  26. Louis, Louis, Louis,
    The Major Penitentiary is ALWAYS on call … even during the conclave. He can even make calls OUTSIDE.
    Come on.
    I know you don’t have my book. But, this is motherhood and apple pie stuff when it comes to the conclave.

    Louis, page 178, 3rd paragraph. I would send you a copy of the book, rev. 0 with all of the typos you so love … given that God willing I will have a rev. 2 next year. But, I know YOU don’t want to divulge where your bunker is.

    ACTUALLY … and OFFER. If any of YOU, who have posted comments here, to-date, want a copy of Rev. 0 (with the 15(+) typos … but the errata is online) … send me an e-mail with address. I will send you one. I have about 50 copies to get rid of.

  27. Louis,
    ‘Who Attend’. Generals are attended by ALL in Rome.
    Then there is PARTICULAR congregations, CHAIRED by the Camerlengo.
    You need to read this stuff up in a GOOD credible book. It is OK.
    I now know your heart is roughly in the right place. I will send you a book, BUT then we will all know who you are.
    Maybe … we can do … what we used to do … when we supplied equipment to US agencies. I could leave a copy of the book, at night in a field.
    You tell me the field. Best, if it is in NH … and I will go out at 11pm and leave it on a tree stump.
    I promise I won’t follow you, install Web-cams, or insert a tracking GPS into the book. [Can’t promise about the magnetic ink that may be traceable.]
    SMILE. LAUGH. It is good for you. Remember, I am always flippant,
    Cheers, Anura

  28. That my friend, Dear Marko, is the problem. It is NOT specified.
    I have maintained that it would be the LAST named. That is all that makes sense. Not the youngest. The ONLY measure that shows the pope’s preference is the order named.

    Also, I have been thinking … following Louis’ and your comments. I do NOT think a General Congregation can determine this!

    We had somebody here yesterday … saying it was ‘ordained’. So maybe the Holy Spirit might have to make a rare appearance at a General Congregation to pass the law.

    Thanks. And cheers. PEACE.

  29. I will agree with you, despite that uncalled for remark about barking mad. So who told you … about how I used to howl at the full moon. Thank God they now have pills to stop the fur from growing at the same time. [But, we have found. Those hormones that make you howl … WOW … If I could bottle them … Pfizer would be out of business.]

    Anyway … on my run today [yep, I run, with weights, across some very hilly terrain, most days … to stop the howling] … I was thinking along similar lines.

    But, I have to think of Amato. Very Tanned Ratzinger is NOW a papabile, WHETHER you like it or not. Sorry. I won’t tell you how many hits we get, BUT the possibility of a papabile from SL has now gone around the world … many times.

    It is the FULL MOON tonight. You should go outside and howl. It will do you a POWER of good. Trust me. Just wear gloves.


  30. On the opposite side of the coin from 120-youngest,I’ve pondered what would reconcile the various splinters who think the Roman Popes have been illegitimate since 1958,or 1964,or whatever.
    I presume that they would consider changes to the constitution of the College invalid,so they would want a Pope elected by the 70 longest-serving Cardinals (ties broken by order of listing),those over the limit set by Sixtus V treated as reserves…I wonder about there being a time when the 70 longest-serving and the 120 youngest don’t overlap!

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