Conclave in History


#1

Hey everyone,

I just had a random question about conclaves in the past, if anyone could help out with an answer, that’d be great :slight_smile: In the past, due to the limits of technology and transportation, sometimes Cardinals could not arrive in Rome in time to vote in the conclave. I’m reading about the 1922 Conclave right now, and 4 of the North American Cardinals arrived late to Rome and totally missed the vote.

This does not seem fair, as essentially the entire point of being a Cardinal is to vote in a conclave and sometimes it very well may be a once in a lifetime event for many cardinals. I know that now this probably is not much of an issue anymore and the process of electing a new Holy Father has been revised under Universi Dominici Gregis and Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio in 2007. Does anyone know what document laid out the process before Universi Dominici Gregis? Also, obviously the elections previously were canonically carried out, but wouldn’t Cardinals who traveled half way around the world be pretty upset if the rest of the Cardinals voted without them? Would they just turn around and go home after pledging obedience to the new Pope…I know I would be terribly disappointed that I did not have a say.

Just some random thoughts an questions, thought the topic would fit here best, if not, feel free to move it!

God bless.

-Paul


#2

I did my Baccalaureate Thesis on Conclaves.

Yeah in one of the earlier 20th century conclaves, the American cardinals only knew there was a new Pope because they heard church bells ringing on the way to the Vatican.

About whether or not they’d return home right away, I’d imagine that they’d stay around a bit. They didn’t get to travel there as often as they could today, so might as well make the most out of it, right?

They’d be upset, but one would hope they’d understand it’s for the good of the Church that a pope would be elected right away. It isn’t great, but that’s life. In any case, it isn’t very likely that so few votes would have made that much of a difference. By the time it’s clear who will win, the Cardinals tend to jump on the same bandwagon, the collective will of the College being more important than their personal preferences. The election of Pius XII was even unanimous (with the exception of Pius XII who didn’t vote for himself) – another time when they needed a new Pope ASAP because of the brewing war.

As for the document that came before UDG, it was Romano Pontifici Eligendo from Paul VI in 1975.

Back when I was doing my thesis, I couldn’t find an English version of it online, but if I remember right either the book Passing the Keys by Francis Burkle-Young or Heirs of the Fisherman by John-Peter Pham had a translation of both UDG and the Paul VI constitution (sorry I forget which book had it).

What are you reading? Those two books I mentioned were great. But if you wanna read more about the modern Conclave, go for John Allen’s Conclave. It was written during John Paul II’s time so it isn’t up-to-date, but it’ll be more relevant than the other two.

John Allen did, however, right a book on the 2005 Conclave called The Rise of Benedict XVI, and as usual, Allen does one heck of a job (though the first half of the book has more to do with John Paul II’s last years and death than it has to do with Benedict).

Honourable mention goes to John Allen’s book All the Pope’s Men. Despite the bad title choice, it does a good job at demystifying the Vatican, especially for the ridiculously suspicious way that Americans tend to look at them. It has a bit about Papal Elections, but deals more with how the Curia works. Great book. Changed my understanding completely.

There’s another book by Andrew Greeley. Don’t waste your time or money on that one :slight_smile:


#3

I dug that Paul VI document on the Vatican's site for you:

vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_constitutions/index.htm

It's the sixth one down, Romano Pontifici Eligendo (October 1, 1975). And there *still *isn't an English version...

But EWTN does

ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/P6ROMPON.HTM

I haven't read it since I did my thesis but I remember UDG doesn't change much.


#4

Yeah, I will keep looking for stuff from even before that, I really like Papal History, I read about it all the time. Last year I read George Weigl's biography of John Paul II which is amazing; I obviously really enjoyed getting inside the October 1978 Conclave. There's one site I like to go on: popes-and-papacy.com/wordpress/. The guy that runs it does a lot of statistical stuff and whatnot, but he has some interesting information, he's also written a book. Just one of my hobbies, I like to learn about the people who could've been Pope as well.

I'm a history nerd! Lol :D

Thanks for your help!

God bless!!

-Paul


#5

Ever see The Shoes of the Fisherman? Good movie to check out, a fictional Conclave but I was impressed about how they were about the details.

Someone uploaded it on YouTube before but it's not there anymore. If you Google Video search it, you might get lucky.

The star also happened to be John Paul II's favourite actor.

BTW as a fellow history buff, I can suggest another book to you. The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities: A Treasury of Trivia by the late Nino Lo Bello. It isn't exclusively about Conclaves but it does have some interesting tidbits. For example, one Cardinal was assigned to be a scrutineer for a Conclave. He happened to himself get elected, and had the pleasure of announcing his own name as the winner. (I can't remember who it was, I think it was Leo XIII).


#6

[quote="PazzoGrande, post:5, topic:310390"]
Ever see The Shoes of the Fisherman? Good movie to check out, a fictional Conclave but I was impressed about how they were about the details.

Someone uploaded it on YouTube before but it's not there anymore. If you Google Video search it, you might get lucky.

The star also happened to be John Paul II's favourite actor.

BTW as a fellow history buff, I can suggest another book to you. The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities: A Treasury of Trivia by the late Nino Lo Bello. It isn't exclusively about Conclaves but it does have some interesting tidbits. For example, one Cardinal was assigned to be a scrutineer for a Conclave. He happened to himself get elected, and had the pleasure of announcing his own name as the winner. (I can't remember who it was, I think it was Leo XIII).

[/quote]

=] Now the Dean of the College announces the election (I think). If the Dean is elected, the Protodeacon announces it.


#7

[quote="YoungTradCath, post:6, topic:310390"]
=] Now the Dean of the College announces the election (I think). If the Dean is elected, the Protodeacon announces it.

[/quote]

Actually the Dean (or sub-Dean) is the one who asks "Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff."

Or if you mean the Habemus Papam announcement on the balcony, it's the Protodeacon and not the Dean or Subdean.

An interesting bit of trivia to the OP, when the balcony announcement is made, there is a Swiss Guard posted to accompany that Cardinal just to ensure the wrong name isn't announced. If I remember right, I got that from the book The Pope's Army, which is about the Swiss Guard. This is what makes the "Siri Hypothesis" (where allegedly Cardinal Siri won the vote but somehow Roncalli's name was announced, thus John XXIII is supposedly not a legitimate Pope) rather difficult to believe.

But what I referred to in Post #5 was the guy who reads aloud the vote tally. They assign three Cardinals to collect the votes, count them and read them out loud so that the whole College can hear each vote then put a thread through each ballot so they can't be accidentally counted more than once. It's done so everyone can witness that there is no ballot-stuffing (or more realistically, outsiders can't claim there was fraud because the other Cardinals witnessed it themselves). They're called Scrutineers.

In one case, one Scrutineer got to read his own name as the victor.

This by the way is what makes the election take long, the verification takes a while. Some Cardinals do follow the tally (Ratzinger did). Some Cardinals read (Wojtyla read a Marxist book). One Cardinal in the last conclave was able to do three Rosaries while waiting.


#8

[quote="PJD1987, post:4, topic:310390"]
Just one of my hobbies, I like to learn about the people who could've been Pope as well.

[/quote]

Cardinals Siri and Benelli were the two top candidates in the October 1978 election. The conclave took a little long because the conservative and liberal factions were pushing for their respective sides, till finally Wojtyla was the compromise Pope.

The media really loved trumpeting Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aries as the almost-pope of 2005 but he wasn't real competition, as far as the reconstruction of balloting that John Allen was able to work out. He did have votes but it really wasn't serious enough to support the media's version of a power-struggle (they always hype that up; I'm sure Bergoglio and his supporters welcomed Benedict XVI with wide open arms, but I hate how the depiction really unfairly makes them look so bad, which the public generally would just believe).

Both Paul VI and Pius XII were expected to be elected, as was Benedict XVI. Interestingly, even after Pius XII had just died, people speculated Montini would be elected even though he wasn't yet a Cardinal. He was an almost-pope then an actual-pope in the next Conclave.

Another almost-pope was Cardinal Rampolla in the election that gave us Pius X. I suppose you've read about that by now, that "Right of Exclusion" and whatnot.

An Eastern Cardinal, Cardinal Agagianian, was getting good momentum but in that election too, a compromise candidate was chosen. It would have been interesting to see how an Armenian Pope would have worked out.


#9

[quote="PazzoGrande, post:8, topic:310390"]
Cardinals Siri and Benelli were the two top candidates in the October 1978 election. The conclave took a little long because the conservative and liberal factions were pushing for their respective sides, till finally Wojtyla was the compromise Pope.

The media really loved trumpeting Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aries as the almost-pope of 2005 but he wasn't real competition, as far as the reconstruction of balloting that John Allen was able to work out. He did have votes but it really wasn't serious enough to support the media's version of a power-struggle (they always hype that up; I'm sure Bergoglio and his supporters welcomed Benedict XVI with wide open arms, but I hate how the depiction really unfairly makes them look so bad, which the public generally would just believe).

Both Paul VI and Pius XII were expected to be elected, as was Benedict XVI. Interestingly, even after Pius XII had just died, people speculated Montini would be elected even though he wasn't yet a Cardinal. He was an almost-pope then an actual-pope in the next Conclave.

Another almost-pope was Cardinal Rampolla in the election that gave us Pius X. I suppose you've read about that by now, that "Right of Exclusion" and whatnot.

An Eastern Cardinal, Cardinal Agagianian, was getting good momentum but in that election too, a compromise candidate was chosen. It would have been interesting to see how an Armenian Pope would have worked out.

[/quote]

Yes, another is Luigi Lambruschini who was Gregory XVI's closest ally and arch-conservative (btw, I find it hilarious when the media proclaims Benedict XVI an "arch-conservative...compared to Gregory XVI or any Pope before VII actually lol, the media is silly). In the same way, I don't know how Leo XIII became to be known as some like, hippy liberal Pope simply because of Rerum Novarum or something, so now Richard McBrien and his ilk always try to say, "Well if the next pope takes Leo XIV we'll know he'll be more "liberal" and open to social issues". I'm not quite sure they really understand that "liberal" as they apply it to the Church does not even exist and I'm positive they would have hated Leo XIII lol.

In any case Domenico Serafini, Pope St. Pius X's closest ally is also someone who could have been Pope in 1914.

The Siri Thesis and "the Church murdered John Paul I" theory are in the same boat for me. The media is just garbage and it's "cool" and "alright" to slander the Catholic Church on national television.

Anyway, those are my thoughts lol

God bless.

-Paul


#10

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