Excursus on Papal Elections

For obvious reasons, we will examining in detail the election process this week. The information below is from these excellent lectures from a Notre Dame professor. Live transmission of the election events and accurate info can be found here.

The Papal Election Process
- The Papacy is the world’s oldest functioning institution.
- Every Pope is technically Peter’s sucessor (not his predecessor’s successor).
- Cardinals of course do the electing: There are 183 (as of March 2005) 95 Europeans, 31 Latin Americans, 18 each from North America and Asia, 16 from Africa, and 5 from Oceania. 38 are Italian; they are the largest single group, but they can no longer dominate the College. Paul VI forbade cardinals over 80 to elect a Pope (which leave 118 of them).
- The camerlengo, the papal chamberlain, is head of the Church when the Pope dies.
- The tap with the silver hammer “legend” is just that, a legend
- At a papal death, the baptismal name (Karol) is called 3 times by the camerlengo. He then does though crush the “ring of the fisherman” (to prevent forgeries).
- The Pope is buried with gold ring of the Bishop of Rome
- Heads of all major offices of the Catholic Church RESIGN except head of the Apostolic Penitentiary (who handles grevious cases of sin). We don’t know much about what they do (bound by seal of confessional).
- Second ranking officer stays in place to handle routine business.

The Election of the New Pope
- The 118 Cardinals who are under 80 will meet cum clave “with a key” which means locked in, a tradition which arose in the 13th century
- Until then the Cardinals are meeting almost daily in “general congregation” which formalizes the “practicae,” the “negotiations” – Cardinals will get to know each other during this time, but are forbidden to bargain their votes, they discuss the kind of person who would be best – Presided over by Dean of Cardinals (Ratzinger)
- Each cardinal takes a vow that he will abide by the rules written by J.P. II in 1996
- After funeral, JPII will be 148th Pope buried at Saint Peter
- Conclave must begin no fewer than 15 and no more than 20 days after Popes death
- Novemdiales – 9 days of official mourning
- During this time the Cardinals preach
- The Cardinals and attendants slept in Sistine Chapel or Hallways adjacent Sistine Chapel – the Casa Santa Marta (hotel) with 120 rooms (not 5 star) but nicer than the cots in the halls in Sistine chapel
- Mass of the Holy Spirit is celebrated
- The homily Pro Eligendo Pontificae, or "the electing of a pontiff” remind cardinals of awesome responsibility
- The cardinals then proceed, solemnly, from St. Peter's to the Sistine Chapel, singing Veni, Creator Spiritus, “Come, Creator Spirit,” the hymn to the Holy Spirit written in the 9th century by Rabanus Maurus.

Conclave Begins
- No television, newspapers, outside lines on phones
- Entire area will be swept for bugs (modern tech concerns?)
- Extra omnes! Extra omnes! (everybody out) is declared and conclave starts
- A second homily is given, and a second oath is sworn to abide by rules
- Each receives three paper ballots. Printed at the top of each is Eligo in Summum Pontificem, “I elect, as highest pontiff.”
- Disguising their handwriting as much as possible cardinals will write whom they elect (cannot vote for themselves)
- Each ballot called a “scrutiny” – There are 3 scrutineers, 3 revisors, 3 infirmallii (goes to sick cardinal in Casa Santa Marta) All of these chosen by lot
- Up to 4 “scrutinies” per day (2 in morning, 2 in afternoon)
- Writes vote, walks forward, places it in large chalice on floor of Sistine Chapel
- 1st scrutineer shakes chalice, the 2nd one counts (if a discrpancy, ballots thrown away)
- 1st and 2nd read silently, record name, sends it to the 3rd scrutineer calls out the name, runs out a needle and thread through the vote. Then votes are burned.
- straw for black smoke (no vote)
- chemicals added to produce white smoke in case of successful 2/3rds vote

The New Pope
- Once a man is voted he is asked by the Dean (Ratzinger) if he accepts. At the moment he says “Accepto” we have a new Pope. (Unless he is not yet a bishop in which case he needs be ordained one – this happened in 1831).
- He is then asked by what name he is to be called, and then a ceremony of welcome amongst the cardinals
- Tailors from Gammarelli prepare a set of white vestments – alleged that they are given tips in advance for fitting’s sake but this also is a legend. (White vestments date to Paul V 1566 who wore a white Dominican habit.)
- First public appearance – led above main façade of St. Peter’s – The Cardinal Deacon says Habemus Papa. After a playful delay…imposuit sibi nomen, “he gives himself the name…”
- Pope then gives a blessing and may say a few words.
- Few days later solemnly installed in a mass in St. Peter’s. Pope gives first formal homily.

Principles for New Election
- qui intrat papa exit cardinalis, “who goes in as pope, comes out as a cardinal.”
- In other words, frontrunners getting elected are rare (last one was 1939 Pius XII)
1. Collegiality in the Church
2. Ecumenism
3. Globalization, poverty and social justice
4. Bioethics, sexuality and the family
5. Role of the laity and women in the Church

How Did This Process Arise?

The First 5 Centuries
- Jesus made Peter (Matthew 16:16-18) elsewhere he is made first as well and acts as spokesman
- Peter had in tradition been at Antioch, went to Rome and served 25 years and martyred by Nero. We have actually discovered his tomb under St. Peter’s Basilica.
- By end of 2nd century cities giving lists of their bishops (beginning of apostolic succession)
- Tradition says Peter named Linus, Anacletus and Clement as his successors – (No evidence to prove or disprove these facts)

The Mid 6th to Mid 8th Centuries
- From this time we know much more
- No reasons to assume Rome was different from other cities – bishop chosen by other clergy and people, but we don’t know exactly how, on occasion Roman emperors intervened
- Byzantine emperors wanted to confirm papal elections at this stage.

Mid 8th Century
- In mid 8th century the Popes allied themselves with the Franks (Charlemagne) and liberated central Italy from Byzantine Empire. This is the origin of Papal states (including the 108 acres that form the Vatican today) and the introduction of powerful noble families, who had powerful influence on life in the Church until the 19th century. If you look up at the façade of St. Peter's Basilica you read there not something about St. Peter at all, but "Paulus [V] Borghesius romanus." This was Camillo Borghese advertising to the world that it was a Borghese who built that building. The middle of the 8th century is when that becomes a force, these powerful noble families.
- The year 769 gave us the first decree on elections by a Roman Synod
- exclusion of laity
- only cardinal priests and cardinal deacons eligible to be elected (because bishops were “married” to their see and could not move around)
- “Cardinal” come from cardo = hinge in latin, the hinge figures
Cardinals are “incardinated” to one of Rome’s Churches where they are senior priests

9th - 11th Century
- 10th century was the worst time in the Papacy due to external pressures from western monarchs and emperors,
- In 1059 Pope Nicholas II saw a window for reform, and took advantage of child emperor to push forward an election decree
- No election until 3 days after Pope being buried – election could happen anywhere
- It was not necessary to seek approval of emperor upon new election (how many votes necessary not specified however, leading to much confusion)
- There was much disagreement with Nicholas, but basically his rules persisted

12th –13th Century
- In 1179 Pope Alexander III required a two-thirds majority to settle one of the flaws in the decree of 1059. Cardinal factions had been exploiting the lack of clarity of the 1059 decree. Senate of the Church (consistory) began to take shape at this point. In priciple 53 Cardinals, soon factions develop
- Cardinals could be as few as 12 however, leading to a deadlocks – one in the 13th century where the papacy was vacant for more than 10 years!
- Therefore in 1241 the Conclave was introduced by Rinaldo Orsini—leader of one of the great Roman families (the Orsini, the Colonna, the Cattani, etc.) —he locked the cardinals in a dilapidated building, gave them lousy food, and would not let them out until they chose a pope. So they were locked in cum clave.
- When Pope Clement IV died in 1268 the conclave took so long that the people of Viterbo (where it was being held) tore the roof off the building, allegedly acting on a quip by an English cardinal that such an action would help the Holy Spirit get in. Still the process (with a makeshift roof) took another year, and even then the pope elected was on a Crusade so until he returned the papacy had been vacant for 3.5 years.
- Therefore Gregory X in 1274 set up rules for conclave – the novemdiales was instituted, and 10 days after the Pope’s death the conclave would happen in city where the Pope died. The camerlengo was to operate the Church while the cardinals were inside – they would get five days of meager provisions and after that only bread, water and wine. This is the outline of the process as we know it.
- In this time began the tradition of ransacking the house of a newly elected Pope which didn’t stop until 1864!
- Boniface VIII 1296 attempted to ban some Cardinals to sway results, but it was then determined that a Cardinal only excluded for heresy or apostacy

The 14th – 18th Centuries
- From 1305-1378 Popes resided in Avignon, otherwise known as the “Babylonian Captivity” of the Church. The only innovation in this time was the “capitualtion,” which meant Cardinals could stipulates a series of conditions that new Pope would have to meet. This was very important up until the 17th century.
- 1378 election was terribly contested leading to The Great Schism where several different people claimed to be Pope
- Council of Constance (1414-1418) settled the matter and Pope Martin V was elected in conclave to end to the Great Schism (this was the only conclave where bishops were permitted).
- After this the Popes were almost always in Rome. 54 of next 68 were Italian. Never again would there be a serious contestation to a Pope elected in a conclave.
- 1458 – the “practicae” (negotiations) were introduced (probably due to a non-Italians majority of Cardinals)
- The 15th century also saw the rise of the “conclavists” – the assistants who were go-betweens between cardinals – they were later illiminated.
- Conclave of 1484 first one held in Sistine chapel
- Sixtus V in 1586 decreed there to be 70 cardinals – No one with children eligible to be Cardinal, attempt to ban the naming of relatives
- 1591 Gregory XIV forbad election by adoration (basically short-circuiting the voting process by hailing one figure and insisting he be Pope). He also forbad betting on papal elections, and attempted to tighten the rules of closure in conclave.
- But our most voluminous surviving records of elections are from Roman bookies!
- In 1621 Gregory XVI tried to guarentee secrecy of ballots, 1 name per ballott, cardinals were to disguise signatures, separtate desks, 2 scrutinies per day
- Rules were pretty well kept, but in 1740 the conclave lasted 6 months!

9th Century – Present
- The first time the smoke was used was 1823
- 1878 common kitchen to stop information leaks
- Alarmed at information leaks during conclave, Pius X said that if secrecy was violated it meant excommuication
- Paul VI illiminated the conclavists, expanded college of cardinals. He also considered inviting bishops but backed off from the plan. He also expanded the college of cardinals.
- JPII 1996 added new features:
- papacy could become vacant only by death or resignation.
- If no one elected after 3 days, 1 day for prayer, discussion, spiritual exortation
- If no more for 7 days, new pause
- If no more for 7 more days – simple majority possible

Collective Result of These Reforms
- Conclaves have of in the last century averaged 3 days
- Little info has leaked out (to bookies, journalists)
- Bacause only 38 of cardinals are Italian, can no longer easily select a majority

Papal Trivia
- John II in 533 was the first to change his name (Mercury sounded too pagan!)
- In 1464, Pietro Barbo, an immensely vain man, declared that he was going to be Pope Formosus II. Formosus in Latin means “handsome.” The cardinals talked him out of it and he became Paul II. Generally speaking Popes take the name of the Pope who made them a cardinal.
- In 955 John 12th was the youngest Pope (18)
- Pope “Joan” was a legend fabricated in the 13th century due to the conflicting Dominican and Franciscan orders… it’s not true.

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