A Scholastic Question by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
In High Scholasticism, the Catholic Theologians, Saints and Doctors of the Church often considered many questions which were speculative, either in regard to what was true but unknowable by man (being hid in the mystery of God) or what could be in a special circumstance which may or may not ever come to be. As founder of The Scholasticum, an Italian non profit dedicated to the revival of the Scholastic Method, I believe that the Scholastic Method can greatly assist the Church even in Her most pressing needs and extraordinary crises. For that reason, I present here a Disputed Question, the import of which may arise, if His Holiness Benedict XVI pass to the Lord before Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and then only if, at such a time, the Cardinals holding fast to the faulty notion that Benedict’s resignation was valid, fail to convene within 20 days to elect his successor. For in accord with the current law on Papal Elections, Universi Dominici Gregis, n.37 Cardinals who do not attend a Conclave with that period no longer have their votes counted. (All references are to the new Code of Canon Law, Latin text; and the papal law on electing the Pope, Latin text.)
Whether, with all Cardinal electors defecting, the Roman Church has the right to elect the Pope?
And it seems that she does not:
1. For only the Cardinals of the Roman Church have the right to elect the Roman Pontiff, according to what is stated in Canon 349, where it says cui competit ut electioni Romani Pontificis provideat ad normam iuris peculiaris. Therefore, since the Roman Church includes those Cardinals, Bishops and Clergy who are not Cardinal Electors, they have no such right. Therefore, the Church of Rome has no right to elect a Pope, even if all the Cardinal Electors fail to elect one.
2. Likewise, since the College of Cardinals has no authority during a Sede Vacante to act other than what is provided for in special law, namely, in the Law for Papal Elections, Universi Dominici Gregis, and this according to Canon 359, which reads: Sede Apostolica vacante, Cardinalium Collegium ea tantum in Ecclesia gaudet potestate, quae in peculiari lege eidem tribuitur; It follows that neither does the Roman Church, because what is denied a superior, is denied also to the inferior. But the College of Cardinals is denied license to act in any other way that what is proscribed in law, therefore also the entire Church of Rome which is inferior to the College.
3. Likewise, since the papal law, Universi Dominici Gregis, n.4, expressly forbids any variation or alteration in law during a Sede Vacante, when it says: Sede Apostolica vacante, leges a Romanis Pontificibus latas non licet ullo modo corrigi vel immutari, neque quidquam detrahi iis sive addi vel dispensari circa partes earum, maxime eas, quae ad ordinandum negotium electionis Summi Pontificis pertinent. Si quid contra hoc praescriptum fieri vel attentari contigerit, id suprema Nostra auctoritate nullum et irritum declaramus; there is nothing which the Roman Church can do, even if all the Cardinals defect, since there is no provision in Canon Law for such action.
4. Likewise, the ancient right of the Roman Church to elect the Roman Pontiff was abrogated when that right was restricted to the Roman Clergy, and again, when that right was further restricted to the Cardinals of the Roman Church. Therefore, no such right exists.
5. Likewise, the ancient right of the Roman Church to elect the Pope was no more than a custom of the Roman Church. But laws of custom have no force if they have not been observed for 1300 years (cf. Canon 26). Therefore, the Roman Church has no such right.
ON THE CONTRARY:
It seems that she does:
1. By Apostolic Institution of the Apostle Saint Peter, the Roman Church undubitably enjoyed the right to elect the Roman Pontiff. This right was restricted by special degree in the 7th century to the Roman Clergy, and in 11th century to the Cardinals of the Roman Church. Yet such a restriction which was prudential and a benefice cannot extinguish the apostolic right, in accord with the principle of law, which states that general prescriptions take precedence to special benefices: Generale praescriptum beneficio speciali anteferendum est (Theodosian Code: DEM AAA. VICTORIO P(RO)C(ONSULI) ASIAE). Therefore, in the case that there are no Cardinal Electors, whether in fact or by defection to an Anti-Pope, or to a Heretical or Schismatic Church, the apostolic right of the Roman Church revives. Therefore, the Roman Church has such a right in their absence.
2. Likewise, by the Code of Canon Law, which declares that all rights which have never been revoked remain in force, according to canon 4, which reads: Iura quaesita, itemque privilegia quae, ab Apostolica Sede ad haec usque tempora personis sive physicis sive iuridicis concessa, in usu sunt nec revocata, integra manent, nisi huius Codicis canonibus expresse revocentur; but the right to elect the Roman Pontiff was indubitably granted by the Apostle Saint Peter to the Roman Church, and that right has never been revoked. Nay, it is the very justification and inherent principle maintained when the Roman Synod in the 7th century restricted the exercise of that right to the Clergy, and when the Pope in the 11th century restricted it further to the College of Cardinals. This is confirmed by canon 6 §4, which restricts the abrogation of previous laws and rights to those things which are integrally expressed in the New Code. But such case, of having no Cardinal Electors, is not provided for. Therefore, it is not integrally included. Therefore, the rights to be referred to in such a case are NOT obrogated. Therefore, that right remains in force always to be revived.
3. Likewise, the ancient right of the Roman Church to elect the Roman Pontiff was ever held to have the force of law. This is self evident from history. But as canon 25, teaches: Nulla consuetudo vim legis obtinet, nisi a communitate legis saltem recipiendae capaci cum animo iuris inducendi servata fuerit. But, such is the case with the ancient right of the Roman Church, especially since when this right was restricted, the ancient reason for it was never denied or explicitly abrogated. This is proven by the fact that the Cardinals are still called Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Therefore, in the absence of all Cardinals, whether by bad will or substantial error, the right returns to the Roman Church.
4. Likewise, custom is the best interpreter of law (Canon 27). But, when Pope John Paul II was near death, the Cardinals and Bishops in his presence presumed his consent to use his signet ring to appoint Bishops which he had already considered for nomination. And no one in the Church objected to this. Therefore, it is right to presume the consent of a lawgiver, in cases in which he never foresaw. But such is the case of a substantial error in a papal resignation, when all the Cardinals fail to notice that substantial error and are consequently led not to convene in Conclave to elect a successor, but cleave instead to an Anti-Pope which they elected uncanonically during the lifetime of the Pope. Therefore, in such an unforseen and extraordinary case, the Roman Church has a right to have recourse to the ancient law.
5. Likewise, from the principle of subsidiarity, that, namely, when a higher or more dignified part of the body politic fail, the right to act passes to the subordinate authority. This is based on the teaching of Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them. It is also supported by Pope John Paul II’s Papal Law on Elections, Universi Domini Gregis, where in the Prologue, the Holy Father says expressly that the College of Cardinals is “not necessary” as an institution “for a valid papal election”. — Thus, with all the Cardinals failing, it would be wrong to deny what the lesser and subordinate organization, the Roman Church, can do. Therefore, if all the Cardinal Electors fail to act on account of an obstruction which they themselves cannot or fail to remove, the Roman Church, as the entity to which they belong by incardination, receives license to resort to the Apostolic right which it has ever enjoyed, in part or whole, of electing the Roman Pontiff.
6. Likewise, from the Code of Canon Law itself, in canon 28: nisi expressam de iis mentionem faciat, lex non revocat consuetudines centenarias aut immemorabiles; hence, since the Apostolic right of the Roman Church is of time immemorial, and since that right is not expressly revoked in the present Code, it remains in force, in due circumstances. But the absence of all Cardinals Electors is not only a due circumstance, but one which puts the very constitution of the Church in the gravest danger, since the Office of Saint Peter is not only useful but necessary for the salvation of souls. Therefore, such a right cannot be considered abrogated by the new Code nor by the papal law on the Election of the Roman Pontiff, even if it seems to be expressly abrogated. Therefore, the Roman Church has such a right, in such circumstances.
I RESPOND: It must be said, that whether by good will or bad, the act of electing a Roman Pontiff during the life time of a validly elected Roman Pontiff is both a crime against God and against the unity of the Church. It is a crime against God, since Christ has ordained only one man to be pope at any given time. Its a crime against the unity of the Church, since it causes a de facto schism between those who adhere to the true Pope and those who adhere to usurper and false pretender. Now, even if the Cardinals who do this, do so without malice, but operate under substantial error, nevertheless before the law they must be held to be guilty of the sin and crime of schism, whereby they lose every office and privilege in the Church.
Now the Roman Church, which has ever held the right by apostolic privilege of electing the Roman Pontiff, enjoys in a special way the promise and right granted by Our Lord when He declares that “the Gates of Hell shall never prevail against My Church.” But the Gates of Hell would prevail against the Roman Church if she were deprived of a validly elected Pope and forced to submit to a pertinacious public heretic, apostate or Freemason. Therefore, the Church of Rome has the right to elect the Roman Pontiff, in the special case wherein all the Cardinal Electors fail to exercise their right to do so. But in accord with the papal law, Universi Dominici Gregis, this right must be exercised within 20 days after the death of the Roman Pontiff.
Therefore, if Pope Benedict XVI dies before Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and after 20 days no Cardinal Elector convenes in Conclave to elect his successor, the Roman Church, composed of all the Cardinals, Bishops and Clergy, incardinated in the Diocese of Rome, excluding those who adhere to the de facto schism, have the right to elect the Roman Pontiff.
For this reason, the arguments to the contrary are to be accepted, which sufficiently refute the arguments which contradict them.
UPDATE – January 28, 2024: The above Scholastic Question was published on January 19, 2019. It is republished here for record, against those critics who said that Br. Bugnolo changed his opinions after he came to Rome.
But since those who malign the holy and righteous work of January 30, 2023, use arguments from this Question without informing their readers of their rebuttal, and since they refuse or cannot understand an argument from principles, as is had above, Br. Bugnolo adds here a direct refutation of the arguments for the negative from first side of the Question,
Ad. 1. That one group has a right, according to a papal law, does not mean that another group does not have a right from some other font of law. Furthermore, the Roman Church has the right to elect the Roman Pontiff by Apostolic Law which is superior to Papal Law, for Apostolic Law is part of Divine Law and Sacred Tradition, which the Roman Pontiff can never abrogate.
Ad. 2. While it is true that all orders of clergy in the Roman Church are inferior to the College of Cardinals, it is not true that that College is superior to the Roman Church. Therefore, what is denied to an inferior, is not necessarily denied to a superior. Nay, the Papal power has denied the right of elections to inferiors, but has not denied the right to elect to the superior. Thus, ex silentio no argument can be made.
Ad. 3. While it is true that the Papal Law Universi Dominici Gregis denies to anyone but Cardinals to elect the Pope, it conditions this and all its provisions to elections during Conclaves. It says nothing about how to conduct an election by Apostolic right, though it does refer to such an election as valid in its introduction, as is clear.
Ad. 4. Right in one order of law is not abrogated when that right is applied by a lesser law in application. Thus when the circumstances of the application no longer hold, then that right revives. And such is the case when all the members of the College of Cardinals defect, or fail to convene within the time specified by the Papal Law.
Ad. 5. The ancient right of the Roman Church is no mere law of custom, since all Catholic theologians hold that it is of Apostolic ordinance. Thus when the custom of positive law could abolish customary law, it cannot abolish this right, which is no mere custom of men.