Oct 142010
 

Consistory Central for November 20, 2010 Consistory

Virtual (‘micro’) consistory for creating one or two cardinals.


by Anura Guruge

In this September 1o, 2010 post, I highlighted (again) the inherent problems with the totally arbitrary 120 cardinal elector limit [coupled with the also arbitrary 80 year cut-off for cardinal electors]. The 75 year retirement age for cardinals mandated in Canon Law exacerbates the situation further. For 372 years, till 1958, the size of the College was capped at 70 — with the 70 having a biblical basis.

Domus Sanctae Marthae with its 129 beds

That the Domus Sanctae Marthae was built in the mid-1990s with 106 suites (two-rooms), 22 single rooms and one apartment, for a total of 129 ‘beds,’ boggles the mind, since it is very clear that John Paul II (#265) intended to specify it as the accommodation for the cardinal electors in his February 1996, Universi Dominici Gregis Apostolic Constitution. Given the way the Vatican thinks, the logistical limitations of the Domus will trump everything else, IF they ever consider increasing the limit. Yes, the 120 could be lowered, but that is unlikely to happen — though John XXIII‘s (#262) premise for extending the College, i.e., to get better global representation, is now somewhat patchy with extremely skewed representation that penalizes Latin America, Africa and Asia — ironically the very geographies in which Catholicism is still growing.

I often have a sneaking feeling that Paul VI (#263) did not intend the 80-year cut off to be permanent. It was an open secret as to why be imposed it in 1970. Given his stated commitment to Vatican II, he wanted to make sure that his successor would not be ardently anti-Vatican II. The 80 year cut-off enabled him to take out 25, elderly cardinals — most of whom were thought to be anti-Vatican II. But, I think he expected one of his successors to over-ride. Contrary to some goof-ball comments on this blog, the cardinals could not in any way change this during a sede vacante. But, a pope could, with just a motu proprio — just like how Paul VI implemented the very rule.

The 20th century, prior to John Paul II‘s rigid reign, saw popes overriding each others rules with gusto. Take the two-thirds (plus one) majority for electing a pope. The original two-thirds majority was specified in 1179. It remained unchanged till 1945. Then it was changed to two-thirds plus 0ne. In 1962 it was changed back to two-thirds. It was changed again to two-thirds plus one in 1975. Then, back to two-thirds in 1996. I will let you work out the popes.

Benedict XVI (#266), as some of you may remember, did issue a motu proprio on June 11, 2007, that overrode John Paul II’s determination of how the ‘run-off’ process should be handled 10 to 13 days into the conclave.

Though it went totally uncommented, until I highlighted it in my book, in 1996, with UDG, John Paul II reduced the 80 year cut off by 16 to 20 days! Go look it up.

Explosive growth in the size of the College of Cardinals since John XXIII

Explosive growth in the size of the College of Cardinals since John XXIII

The bottom line here is that popes can change papal electoral law (and even lore). Pius XII (#261), John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have all made changes — but the latter two have not addressed the over-80 or 120 issue. The over-80 issue suited them. It provided them with a ‘phase-out’ process without having to wait for cardinals to die. They could replenish the electorate, since older cardinals are regularly falling off the roster.

In five to six months we will have 80 non-elector cardinals — assuming the pope does NOT create any over-80 cardinals at the November 20, 2010 consistory. Here is something to think about. The June 1963 conclave that elected Paul VI was attended by 80 cardinals. So we will have as many non-electors cardinals by Easter 2011 as the number that elected the pope who created this problem.

Something has to be done.

There are numerous comments on this blog where people have expressed their disquiet as to how the College is expanding. Something has to be done.


On October 12 we had the suggestion that the 120 youngest cardinals, even if some were over 80, should be the electorate.

I went on record as saying I like it.

However, right from the beginning I had a nagging feeling that there was a sinister ‘problem’ with this novel idea. Let me admit that I am the cynics cynic, have been around the block a few times and am noted for thinking outside of the box.

Within a few hours, my mind working in background, batch mode (while I worked on other stuff) determined what had bothered me about this problem — which I, nonetheless, still like.

This approach will be unique in that, if implemented, it would for the first time in Church history permit somebody other than a pope to determine who could vote at an election.

Yes, it has always been possible to PRECLUDE electors from participating. Way back in 1241, Frederick II kidnapped two cardinals prior to the election — though he later released one, temporarily. In 1963 one cardinal could not get out of Hungary.

But, neither the Emperor or the Hungarians could get a cardinal they preferred into the electoral roll.

With this scheme you could. And that is a problem.

If you haven’t worked it out, let me spell it out to you as diplomatically as I can — and please remember it doesn’t have to be the other cardinals or the curia.

Anybody can try, including a government that is upset that their one and only cardinal just became 121, on the list of the 120 youngest.

If younger cardinals become ‘unavailable’ older cardinals, in essence, come back into the list of the 120 youngest.

To emphasize what I am trying to say, as tactfully as possible, lets take the current list — today. 102 under 80. So the 18 youngest, over 80 cardinals will make the 120 youngest list. So Sodano now makes the list. There is a cardinal from Chile 8 places higher, and one from Uganda above that. Now if we were to lose nine under-80 electors, viola, the Chilean and Ugandinian are electors.

Do you see the POTENTIAL for …

Now do you understand what I mean by external forces being able to determine who can GET BACK on the elector list.

I do not think a pope will buy this idea — especially now that I have spelled out the danger. Just think what could have happened in February and March 2005. The pope was not in a position to have a consistory to create any new cardinals. But, who would be eligible to be electors could have changed …

So … just a thought. Once I became aware of it, I had to share it.

But, the 120 and over-80 rules have to be changed.

  2 Responses to “Something Has To Be Done About The 120 Cardinal Elector Limit”

  1. Actually,the matter of the age-80 cutoff changing from the start of the conclave (which would allow the College,under the discretion granted by Cum proxime,to disenfranchise a colleague by setting the conclave date after his birthday if it fell within the set window) to the day of the pope’s death was noted by Frank Young to me,and by me in some Wikipedia edits,before your book was written.

    I do think that a new Election Constitution is called for…besides the worrisome implication that only two candidates remain eligible after a certain number of ballots and one must be elected by at least two thirds but both may be utterly opposed by more than one third…hence,no election is allowed…there is much ambiguity in UDG over what decisions of the sede vacante are to be made by the General Congregation (all Cardinals,presided over by the Dean) and what decisions by “the assembly of cardinal electors” (the cardinals under 80,presided over by the senior such Cardinal).

    My youngest-120 rule,as I said,is not intended to be youngest 120 allowed to be present,any of the set 120 who were absent would not be replaced if alive.And (as with Shirayanagi) someone can die while among the youngest 120 even after turning 80,if there are under 120 under 80.

  2. There is no need to have 120 electors. Benedict were choosen by 115 cardinals. I think is no need to change. If electors are not able to participate, then will be less electors. Not only cardinal may be elected pope, anybody who is a bishop can be elected. But I think there are so much candidates among cardinals that it be a cardinal.
    PS I think it be Scola

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