Skip to comments.Conclave: Pope's 'electoral college' has moral values, no exit polls
Posted on 11/09/2004 9:30:17 AM PST by NYer
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Non-Americans at the Vatican are often perplexed by the U.S. electoral system, wondering how, for example, a nationwide presidential choice can come down to 130,000 votes in a single state.
Sometime in the coming years, the Vatican will host its own unique form of election called a conclave, and the shoe will be on the other foot: Church leaders will be called on to explain one of the oldest and most arcane systems of voting in the world.
Papal conclaves are not like the popular votes of democratic countries. The approximately 120 electors are all cardinals, all male and all sworn to secrecy about the proceedings, which take place behind a locked door.
When a new pope is finally chosen, the larger church membership of more than 1 billion Catholics often has no idea how many votes he received or who the other strong candidates were.
The conclave is not an expression of representative democracy, as Vatican officials are fond of pointing out, but recent popes have made an effort to promote more geographical balance by naming cardinals from Third World countries.
And increasingly cardinal-electors from around the world are being watched by the media as carefully as swing-state voters in the United States.
"These cardinals used to be fairly unknown to the world, because for centuries most of them resided in Rome. Now there is a great amount of attention given to them, and the cardinals themselves are traveling and making global connections," said Msgr. Charles Burns, a Scottish historian and retired official of the Vatican Archives.
One of the unique aspects of a papal conclave is that, to a very large degree, it can be shaped by a sitting pope.
Pope John Paul II, for example, has named all but three of the 122 cardinals who would elect his successor if a conclave were held today. He has also revised the rules of the conclave, introducing a few substantial changes. One modification allows the cardinals to move more easily to a simple majority vote from the standard two-thirds plus one needed to elect a pontiff.
More than any of his predecessors, Pope John Paul has tried to distribute cardinal appointments to every area of the globe. Places like Ghana and Sudan, where Catholics a generation ago might never have dreamed of having a cardinal, now have a local participant in the next conclave.
That does not translate into a vote for the Catholics of each country, of course.
"It doesn't work that way," said Msgr. Burns.
"Each cardinal does bring the concerns of his church community to a conclave. But the cardinals do not represent limited groups of Catholics -- they come together in a sense of communion, representing the universal church," he said.
Even with the geographically wide-ranging appointments of recent years, the College of Cardinals remains heavily weighted toward Europe, which today has 61 voting-age cardinals, or 50 percent of the total. Italy alone has 21 cardinal-electors, or more than 17 percent.
If they were apportioned by Catholic population, Europe would have only 32 cardinal-electors and Italy would have six.
On the other hand, Brazil, the country with the largest Catholic population, currently has only four voting-age cardinals. A per-Catholic distribution would give Brazil 17 cardinal-electors.
The United States has 11 cardinal-electors at present, 9 percent of the total, whereas U.S. Catholics make up about 6 percent of the total Catholic population in the world.
The geographical breakdown of the cardinal-electors today is: Western Europe, 39 percent; Latin America, 18 percent; United States and Canada, 11 percent; Eastern Europe, 11 percent; Africa, 10 percent; Asia, 9 percent; and Oceania, 2 percent.
The cardinals fall off the conclave voting rolls when they reach age 80, which keeps the average age of the cardinal-electors at a relatively youthful 71 and a half. Of the 122 potential voters today, nearly one-fourth are retired or active officials of the Roman Curia, and most of the rest are residential archbishops around the world.
Strangely, there are no native-born Romans among voting-age cardinals today -- a fact that sometimes scandalizes Catholics in Rome.
When cardinals are summoned to Rome for a conclave, there is not much time for sorting out candidates. In modern times, the whole process of papal death to election of a new pope typically takes less than a month. The rules call for consultative discussions before the start of a conclave, but they specifically ban any type of vote-swapping agreements.
"There's not really lobbying -- or if there is, it's pretty subtle," said Msgr. Burns.
In this election, "moral values" are assumed to be a shared priority among all the voters. But there are no exit polls, because the cardinals are barred from talking about the details of the conclave proceedings.
The outside world rarely intrudes upon a conclave's deliberations, but there are exceptions.
In the 13th century, cardinals holed up in the papal palace of Viterbo outside Rome for 33 months without electing a pope, taxing the local supply of food and wine. Asked by local residents why it was taking so long, the cardinals said they were waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit.
The residents then removed the roof from the building, saying it would make it easier for the Holy Spirit to come down. Open to the elements, the cardinals quickly chose a pope.
At the end of a conclave, one man walks out and faces the world as pope. Unlike the end of political elections, there are no obvious losers, and the start of a pontificate usually represents a moment of unity and hope for the church.
"If there has been a close election or acrimonious divisions on the inside, we are spared the details," said Msgr. Burns.
In the 13th century, cardinals holed up in the papal palace of Viterbo outside Rome for 33 months without electing a pope, taxing the local supply of food and wine.
Viterbo has retained more papal coats of arms than any other town of the former Papal State. In the second half of the XIIIth century Viterbo became the preferred (3,319 days) residence of the popes: in this period the iconography of the popes developed the symbols which later on became typical of papal heraldry. The popes lived in Viterbo partly because of security needs and partly because in summer Rome and especially the Vatican were unhealthy. The Palace of the Popes was built during this period (several conclaves were held in Viterbo and four popes are buried in its churches) and in 1276 a Loggia delle Benedizioni (blessings) was built next to the palace. The frieze above the arches showed for the first time the two keys of St Peter crossing each other.
Fountain in the Loggia
Ratzinger is too old. He's 78.
I thought the cardinals were going to pick somebody old this time, because they don't like long pontificates and they've just been through a doozy. No?
The cardinals don't want another 27 year pontificate (and counting), but two or three years is a bit short. Ratzinger wanted to retire at CDF, but John Paul II refused to accept his resignation.
I just don't think the conclave will elect Ratzinger. In fact, I don't think any curial cardinal will be elected.
**"Each cardinal does bring the concerns of his church community to a conclave. But the cardinals do not represent limited groups of Catholics -- they come together in a sense of communion, representing the universal church," he said.**
With the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever heard of somebody actually refusing the election?
Yes. Cardinal Siri. In 1958, and 1963.
Siri? Where did you read this? I had heard that he was a runner-up at both conclaves -- to our great misfortune.
Not quite. Cardinal Siri actually did recieve the required number of ballots to become Pope in both 1958, and 1963. But in both cases he refused the pontificate, citing danger to his family, friends or even to himself.
That much is recorded fact. The not too subtle rumor is that the secrecy of the Conclave may have been violated, and a message passed to Siri from the outside world, indictative of such a literal threat.
Perhaps you would like to post a citation, from a non-conspiratorial source.
Is this another of your goofball Masonic fictions?
That Siri was in fact elected Pope, having recieved the correct number of ballots, is the truth. So is hte fact that he declined the Papacy when asked: "acceptem pontificem?"..........."do you accept to be made pope?"
The other matter - the reason why he refused is known, but not confirmable. Though Siri himself did (obliquely) refer to this matter, and did directly confirm, in some interviews, that he had indeed been validly elected but refused the papacy.
I have a better idea........why dont YOU do some work for once, and go look it up yourself!
As I thought, another Masonic spookfest that you pulled out of your hat.
Is this another of your goofball Masonic fictions?
No indeed it is true. But I will give you a lovely Masonic fact for you and your clerical Lodge brothers to mull over.......
In 1903, Cardinal Rompalla was elected Pope, but his election was vetoed by the Holy Roman Emporer, Karl Joseph , Emporer of Austria-Hungary. He had this veto power over conclaves, as did his predecessors who were Holy Roman Emporers. This veto was made by a representative, lawfully admitted to the conclave, who was a cleric in Holy Orders.
The reason; Cardinal Rompalla was a bone fide member of a Freemasonic Lodge, and the representative had proof of this enrollment.
Due to this veto, another balloting session produced the next pope: St. Pius X - the scourge of Modernism and Masonry.
I am sure that you and your brothers in the LOdge must be weeping over this tragic loss of such a noble man of the Craft to the Petrine Office.
Did you know that St. Pius the Xth was 1/2 Polish? His father moved from Poland to Italy and was a garment worker. The father translated his Polish name into Italian, hence the name Sarto (meaning sewer or garment maker) became the family name. I can't recall what the quivalent name was in Polish, but it is a common Polish surname. St. Pius Xth Mother was Italian; the family was very poor. I read this all in Malachi Martins' book, "The Keys to This Blood".
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