In 1996, then Pope John Paul II (now St. John Paul II) promulgated papal constitution Universi Dominici Gregis forbidding the canvassing or lobbying for votes by the cardinal electors in the selection of pope. Violators would be automatically excommunicated, i.e. immediately imposed, without necessity of declaration. (The Latin expression for “automatic” is latae sententiae, which means “incurred as soon as the offence is committed”.) The result of the election would be “null and void.”
Universi Dominici Gregis, which means “the Lord’s whole flock” in English, is an Apostolic Constitution of the Catholic Church issued by Pope John Paul II on February 22, 1996. It supersedes all previous apostolic constitutions and orders on the subject of the election of the Roman Pontiff.
Universi Dominici Gregis begins:
The Shepherd of the Lord’s whole flock is the Bishop of the Church of Rome, where the Blessed Apostle Peter, by sovereign disposition of divine Providence, offered to Christ the supreme witness of martyrdom by the shedding of his blood. It is therefore understandable that the lawful apostolic succession in this See . . . has always been the object of particular attention.
Precisely for this reason, down the centuries the Supreme Pontiffs have deemed it their special duty, as well as their specific right, to establish fitting norms to regulate the orderly election of their Successor . . . .
While it is indeed a doctrine of faith that the power of the Supreme Pontiff derives directly from Christ, whose earthly Vicar he is,8 it is also certain that this supreme power in the Church is granted to him “by means of lawful election accepted by him, together with episcopal consecration”.9 A most serious duty is thus incumbent upon the body responsible for this election. Consequently the norms which regulate its activity need to be very precise and clear, so that the election itself will take place in a most worthy manner . . . .
[T]he College of electors of the Supreme Pontiff is composed solely of the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church . . . whose members come from every continent.
Universi Dominici Gregis then specifies, among other laws, that:
- The cardinal electors are to vote by secret ballot (Universi Dominici Gregis II:10).
- Anyone who commits the crime of simony — the buying and selling of church offices and votes — will be automatically excommunicated (Universi Dominici Gregis VI:78).
- Cardinal electors who attempt to influence (lobby) or are influenced (lobbied) in the election of the pope will be automatically excommunicated (Universi Dominici Gregis VI:80-83).
Here are Universi Dominici Gregis laws 80-83:
80. In the same way, I wish to confirm the provisions made by my Predecessors for the purpose of excluding any external interference in the election of the Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, in virtue of holy obedience and under pain of excommunication latae sententiae, I again forbid each and every Cardinal elector, present and future, as also the Secretary of the College of Cardinals and all other persons taking part in the preparation and carrying out of everything necessary for the election, to accept under any pretext whatsoever, from any civil authority whatsoever, the task of proposing the veto or the so-called exclusiva, even under the guise of a simple desire, or to reveal such either to the entire electoral body assembled together or to individual electors, in writing or by word of mouth, either directly and personally or indirectly and through others, both before the election begins and for its duration. I intend this prohibition to include all possible forms of interference, opposition and suggestion whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree, or any individual or group, might attempt to exercise influence on the election of the Pope.
81. The Cardinal electors shall further abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons. If this were in fact done, even under oath, I decree that such a commitment shall be null and void and that no one shall be bound to observe it; and I hereby impose the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae upon those who violate this prohibition. It is not my intention however to forbid, during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning the election.
82. I likewise forbid the Cardinals before the election to enter into any stipulations, committing themselves of common accord to a certain course of action should one of them be elevated to the Pontificate. These promises too, should any in fact be made, even under oath, I also declare null and void.
83. With the same insistence shown by my Predecessors, I earnestly exhort the Cardinal electors not to allow themselves to be guided, in choosing the Pope, by friendship or aversion, or to be influenced by favour or personal relationships towards anyone, or to be constrained by the interference of persons in authority or by pressure groups, by the suggestions of the mass media, or by force, fear or the pursuit of popularity. Rather, having before their eyes solely the glory of God and the good of the Church, and having prayed for divine assistance, they shall give their vote to the person, even outside the College of Cardinals, who in their judgment is most suited to govern the universal Church in a fruitful and beneficial way.
Bro. Alexis Bugnolo of the blog, From Rome, writes:
Note that since the Papal law is wide in what it forbids, not only is it a crime to promise a vote, it is a crime to join in a conspiracy to canvass for such votes, since this is tantamount to promising to vote for one candidate and not vote for other candidates. However, note that the papal law only penalizes voting Cardinals. Cardinals too old to vote, are not thus penalized, though they are collaborating in the solicitation of votes.
The Papal election of 2005 that selected Pope Benedict XVI was the first papal election to be held under John Paul II’s Universi Dominici Gregis. Benedict XVI made three changes to Universi Dominici Gregis:
- Reinstating the traditional two-thirds vote required to elect a new Pope regardless of the number of ballots it takes;
- Allowing the College of Cardinals the possibility to bring forward the start of the conclave once all cardinals are present, or push the beginning of the election back by a few days should there be serious reasons;
- Automatic excommunication of any non-cardinal who broke the absolute oath of secrecy of the College of Cardinals during the proceedings to select the new leader of the Catholic Church.
In other words, Pope Benedict XVI kept intact Universi Dominici Gregis‘s papal laws 80-83, including law 81 that explicitly forbids the cardinal electors from lobbying each other on behalf of a candidate.
But the cardinal electors who voted Argentinian cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as pope did exactly that — they lobbied fellow cardinals and were influenced by the lobbying, in violation of Papal Law 81.
What follows are three pieces of evidence in support of this assertion.
To begin, in an article for The Wall Street Journal, titled “Fifteen Days in Rome: How the Pope was Picked,” Aug. 6, 2013, Stacy Meichtry and Alessandra Galloni wrote that although Bergoglio had some support in 2005, he was “definitely a dark-horse candidate” in 2013:
Veteran cardinals who had cast ballots for Cardinal Bergoglio in 2005 saw a chance to float his candidacy again. His earliest supporters—a coalition of cardinals from Latin America, as well as Africa and Europe—viewed him as a consummate outsider. […] The challenge was getting Cardinal Bergoglio the 77 votes he needed, representing two-thirds of the conclave, to become pope.
Exhibit #1: Testimony of Cardinal Elector Theordore McCarrick
Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., was one of the cardinals in the Papal Conclave that elected Bergoglio. On October 11, 2013, during a speech given at Villanova University, McCarrick said that he was lobbied to support Bergoglio whom he (McCarrick) and other cardinals had not even considered before.
Beginning at the 18:20 mark in the video below, Cardinal McCarrick said that before the cardinal electors “went into the general conversations, he was approached by “a very interesting and influential Italian gentleman.” The man then came to the seminary where McCarrick was staying in Rome. Then, this “very brilliant man, very influential man in Rome” said, “What about Bergoglio? Does he have a chance?” McCarrick said he was surprised at the question, and replied, “I don’t think so because no one’s mentioned his name.” The man said, referring to Bergoglio, “He could do it, you know, reform the church,” and spoke about how Bergoglio had reformed the church in Argentina in just five years. McCarrick confessed, “That was the first time I’d heard there were people who thought Bergoglio was a possibility in this election.”
At the general congregation of the cardinal electors, McCarrick spoke for five minutes, in which he told his fellow electors that he hoped that whoever was elected pope would be someone who, if not himself a Latin American, would “have a very strong interest in Latin America because half the Church is there . . . that’s where the people are.”
Exhibit #2: Testimony of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor
As reported by the Catholic Herald on Sept. 12, 2013, former Cardinal of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who was not an elector but is rumored to be the leader of “Team Bergoglio,” admitted that Bergoglio knew that he was being put forth as a candidate prior to the initiation of the Papal Conclave, and that Murphy-O’Connor was his lobbyist:
Murphy-O’Connor said: “All the cardinals had a meeting with him [Pope Francis] in the Hall of Benedictions, two days after his election. We all went up one by one. He greeted me very warmly. He said something like: ‘It’s your fault. What have you done to me?’ […]
The cardinal also disclosed that he had spoken to the future Pope as they left the Missa pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice, the final Mass before the conclave began on March 12.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said: “We talked a little bit. I told him he had my prayers and said, in Italian: ‘Be careful.’ I was hinting, and he realised and said: ‘Si – capisco’ – yes, I understand. He was calm. He was aware that he was probably going to be a candidate going in. Did I know he was going to be Pope? No. There were other good candidates. But I knew he would be one of the leading ones.”
Exhibit #3: What The Great Reformer book says
In the recently-published book The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, author Dr. Austen Ivereigh writes (the following quotes from Chapter 9, pp. 349-367, of The Great Reformer are from Bro. Bugnolo’s blog post):
Page 355: “They had learned their lesson from 2005” – referring to Team Bergoglio learning from their failed attempt to get Bergoglio elected pope in 2005.
P. 355: “They first secured his [Bergoglio’s] assent. Asked if he was willing, he said that he believed that at this time of crisis for the Church no cardinal could refuse if asked.” Bro. Bugnolo maintains that “such a statement is morally equivalent to a sign of will giving consent, and in the context of a proposal to launch a campaign, it is also morally equivalent to a pact. This is an excommunicatable offense given the context of the offer of a campaign. A conscientious man, observant of the law of the conclave, would have added a sign that he repudiated an organized campaign, if only out of charity for the campaigners, who would thereby fall foul of the papal law.”
P. 355: “Then they got to work touring the cardinals’ dinners to promote their man…”
P. 355: “… Their objective was to secure at least twenty-five votes for Bergoglio on the first ballot. An ancient Italian cardinal kept the tally of how many votes they could rely on before the conclave started.” Bro. Bugnolo writes that this is a violation of Universi Domenici Gregis law #81 “without any wiggle-room, because you cannot tally votes, unless votes have been promised, and if they are promised, then the ones asking have sought them, and both parties have entered into some kind of obligation or pact or agreement to vote for a particular candidate in the first ballot, while not voting for all other candidates.”
P. 355: “The Spanish cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, archpriest of St. Mary Major in Rome and a former nuncio in Latin America, was vigorous in canvassing on Bergoglio’s behalf among the Iberian Iberian bloc.”
Ivereigh then names other cardinal collaborators in the conspiracy: Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, and U.S. Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
Pp. 356-357: “For this reason, and because the organizers of his campaign stayed carefully below the radar, the Bergoglio bandwagon that began to roll during the week of the congregations went undetected by the media, and to this day most vaticanisti believe there was no organized pre-conclave effort to get Bergoglio elected.”
In footnote 10, Dr. Ivereigh delivers the final confirmation of a conspiracy to elect Jorge Bergoglio to be Pope Francis:
In his Francis: Pope of a New Word (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2013), ch. 3, the leading Vatican commentator Andrea Tornielli says that there were no “campaigns organized in advance” of the conclave for Bergoglio. There was one.
Assuming that the above three accounts (Exhibits 1-3) are true, then Pope Francis is an illegitimate pope, which means he and his co-conspirators should be automatically excommunicated and all his acts as pope “null and void.”
To sign an international petition asking the Catholic Church’s College of Cardinals to investigate whether the election of Jorge Bergoglio as pope was in violation of Papal Law No. 81, click here.
Update (July 13, 2018):
Bishop Gracida, bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, TX, also believes that the canvassing during the papal conclave that elected Bergoglio as Pope is canonically illegal, which renders the validity of the papal election in doubt. (PCM)
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