What gives the Cardinals the authority to elect the New Pope?


Just a simple question, no traditionalist influence here.

My question is asked because the Cardinals are a group of bishops who elect a new pope from them.

If all you have to be is a male and a baptized Catholic, why cant a few lay people elect the new pope versus the Cardinals electing the pope?

Say in times of Sede Vancante, a group of traditionalist Catholics, say about 70 lay Catholics (1 Being a Traditionalist Bishop) and they elect someone and the bishop ordains him to the episcopate and becomes the pope?

Is the reason the Cardinal election is valid versus a few lay peoples election because the Cardinal's election are recognized throughout the world? But then the Early Church? :confused:

This is a sincere question, not a traditionalist question. (Well, it is sorta, but I'm not a traditionalist)

Thank you!


why cant a few lay people elect the new pope versus the Cardinals electing the pope?

From my understanding, the title of Supreme Pontiff is attached to the position of Bishop of Rome. When a person is elevated to the position of cardinal, they are granted a titular church in Rome, and it is by virtue of being a "Roman" Pastor that they have a say in the election of the Bishop of Rome.

So, why can't lay people elect the Pope? Because church grants them no authority to elect the Bishop of Rome.


Oh I see now! Thanks!


Also eastern Patriarch Cardinals use their own titles.

Can. 349

The cardinals of the Holy Roman Church constitute a special college which provides for the election of the Roman Pontiff according to the norm of special law. The cardinals assist the Roman Pontiff either collegially when they are convoked to deal with questions of major importance, or individually when they help the Roman Pontiff through the various offices they perform, especially in the daily care of the universal Church.
Can. 350

§1. The college of cardinals is divided into three orders: the episcopal order, to which belong cardinals to whom the Roman Pontiff assigns title of a suburbicarian church and Eastern patriarchs who have been brought into the college of cardinals; the presbyteral order and the diaconal order.
§2. The Roman Pontiff assigns each of the cardinals of the presbyteral or diaconal orders his own title or diaconia in Rome.
§3. Eastern patriarchs who have been made members of the college of cardinals have their own patriarchal see as a title.
§4. The cardinal dean holds as his title the Diocese of Ostia together with the other church he already has as a title.
§5. Through a choice made in consistory and approved by the Supreme Pontiff and with priority of order and promotion observed, cardinals from the presbyteral order can transfer to another title, and cardinals from the diaconal order to another diaconia and if they have been in the diaconal order for ten full years, even to the presbyteral order.
§6. A cardinal transferring through choice from the diaconal order to the presbyteral order takes precedence offer all those cardinal presbyters who were brought into the cardinalate after him.


The Pope has the authority to determine who elects his successor. So the next Pope could, if he so desired, issue a pronouncement that the College of Cardinals is abolished and the next Pope shall be elected by an electoral college composed entirely of laity, or he could simply choose his successor outright without input from anybody else.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.